Astonishing, controversial photographs of self-ordained nuns cultivating and smoking cannabis were released in March by photographers Shaughn Crawford and John DuBois of Shaughn and John Photography. A manifold of media—some commending, some critical and some objective—quickly picked up the images and background story. The fascinating pictures abetted a stimulation of necessary conversation surrounding the ethics of marijuana and its therapeutic uses. Regardless of personal opinion about the recreational use of marijuana, the photographs inspire reflection about the morality of denying an effective remedy to people who need its antidote.
Describing their mission on their website as an effort to “focus on unique stories and subcultures” and “to capture the authenticity of their subjects,” Crawford and DuBois certainly accomplished their purpose through capturing the cannabis-imbued depictions of Sister Kate and Sister Darcy.
The Sisters are not directly affiliated with the Catholic Church, but do seek to emulate the Catholic values of benevolence and humanitarian contribution, as reported by the Huffington Post. They call themselves the Sisters of the Valley and live together in their central California “abbey.”
Their goal is not to enable psychoactive recreation, but to provide healing to individuals in need. The cannabis they use in their medicinal blends actually contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol—the element of marijuana with hallucinatory properties. Rather, it is high in cannabidiol—the medicinal element.
Marijuana’s curative property is a subject worth discussion and merit. The fact that so many people successfully use the plant as medicine—and so many medical professionals support it—begs the question: Why is there a lack of understanding, research and acceptance regarding medical marijuana use despite an abundance of testimonies regarding its curative abilities?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are currently two Food and Drug Administration-approved, pill-form medications containing cannabinoid chemicals and there has been an increase of states legalizing the use of the plant for medical purposes. The FDA, however, does not currently recognize cannabis itself as medicine. This is because of a lack of large-scale clinical trials required for such an edict—indicatively due to widespread social indignation stemming from ignorance.
Crawford and DuBois’ intriguing photographs of Sister Kate and Sister Darcy with their plants and salves has helped bring attention to the issue. The captivating images of a union between spirituality and marijuana are distinctive and provocative for a society that, by and large, regards the plant as inviolable dope. These photographers shed light on the world of progressive medicine, obliterating stereotypes and providing an original, wholesome perspective.
Considering the sizeable population in the U.S.—and the world for that matter—that uses various forms of marijuana as a fundamental medical antidote, it’s essential that more attention be paid to the topic. When so many people are experiencing life-changing benefits from the plant, it seems horrific that society and the government denounce its use. Many individuals have praised marijuana, claiming it as the sole reason they have successfully treated illnesses as serious as epilepsy and cancer, providing healthy lifestyles they feel they never would have otherwise attained or regained.
Rousing public interest through images that challenge society’s preconceived notion of cannabis as strictly contraband is a step in the right direction. The photographs Crawford and DuBois encapsulated of women devoted both to faith and medical marijuana allow a contemplation of the morality of refusing an effective treatment to sick people.
Hopefully, such novel depictions will create openness to education about the topic, as well as expedite the development of social consciousness concerning a valid form of medicine—a medicine that warrants more positive reception, support and research.