Global Healthcare Conversations with Mieko ft. Kannabis Works Co-Founder

July 17, 2021   |   By Mieko Hester-Perez

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Cannabis educator Shelly McKay is Co-Founder and Health & Wellness Director of Kannabis Works, a fully licensed California dispensary in Santa Ana, Orange County.

A deeply dedicated and driven cannabis entrepreneur, Shelly has worked in the cannabis industry since 2016 in a variety of roles including business development, investment, product specialist, patient support and cannabis wellness coaching.

She has a passion for the medical research happening globally that continues to evolve our understanding and use of cannabis. While working as Kannabis Works’ Chief Operating Officer, she identified the need for educating and de-stigmatizing the plant.

Mckay has worked with countless cultivators, distributors, and vendors to find the best methods to ensure patients get knowledgeable information and reliable, clean, tested products.

She started the Veterans Compassion Network which seeks to provide education and compassionate safe access to cannabis. This program was made possible under SB 34 - The Dennis Peron & Brownie Mary Act, which was passed in October of 2019.

The program has supported roughly one hundred and fifty veterans for a year and a half. Each participant receives donated cannabis thanks to the generosity of the amazing cannabis brand partners in California.

“Kannabis” Shelly McKay turns compassion into action as one of the leading proponents of cannabis use and legal access in her native Orange County, CA.

Driven by the scientific evidence that proves “cannabis is medicine,” Shelly educates medicinal and recreational users on the health and wellness benefits of this stigmatized plant. She is also a cannabis entrepreneur as part owner of Kannabis Works legal dispensary in Santa Ana, CA.

Through her work in the community, Shelly and Kannabis Works have partnered with veteran’s groups, children’s cancer organizations, and cannabis cultivators to host donated medical cannabis opportunities through California’s SB-34.

She hopes in time her work will contribute to a rethinking of cannabis on a societal level—within the context of medical research and education, social justice reform, safe access, taxation, and more.

Please tell us about yourself and how you entered the industry.

My name is Shelly McKay and I am a Co-Founder of Kannabis Works, a fully licensed California dispensary in Santa Ana, Orange County. What sets Kannabis Works apart from the other dispensaries is that we focus on cannabis wellness and educate the consumer about the science behind cannabis.

I started the education program where we onboard our employees to understand that cannabis is not only used recreationally but it is also used as medicine. We work with a large pool of doctors that refer their patients to products that we source.

I have a passion for the medical research happening globally that continues to evolve our understanding and use of cannabis.

So what is the reason you entered the cannabis space?

Compassion. It’s all about the patient. I want to help people. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact. The longer I am in the industry, the more I want to fight to make a difference for veterans, seniors, children, athletes, social justice causes and helping to combat the opioid epidemic. We need to fight for safe and compassionate access for those who cannot afford it.

How do you help to provide safe and compassionate access?

When Prop 64 was passed, it sadly left out compassionate donations of cannabis. The high cost of cannabis in the legal market does not allow for equal access to clean and tested products.

SB 34 was passed in October of 2019 which allowed for us to donate cannabis to the patients in need. I had been working with the veteran community providing education and support prior to SB 34.

We successfully launched the Veterans Compassion Network in March of 2020 and have provided monthly donations to local veterans. In addition, I offer support, resources, education, and consultations to help the veteran community.

All participants must see a doctor prior and obtain a medical recommendation for cannabis. I then guide the participants on product knowledge and guidance on how to obtain the best outcome. We go over the risks, drug interactions and safety before using cannabis in their journey.

How do the veterans know that the cannabis they are receiving is clean?

The cannabis plant is tracked from seed to sale. When a plant reaches a certain height, it is given a unique identifier and follows the plant to its final product, whether it’s an edible, tincture, vapor pen, drink, or flower.

The Department of Cannabis Control requires that every single product be tested. Cannabis dispensaries must receive a COA or certificate of analysis that not only shows the cannabinoid content but also that it has passed testing for pesticides, mold, fungus, and anything else that can contaminate the product.

The state also requires an excise tax, sales tax and then city tax. This equates to 31% tax in Santa Ana. In my opinion, the taxes imposed on the cannabis plant are atrocious. The taxes have been the major reason why patients cannot afford to buy legal cannabis. So, this truly sums up the reason why I started the SB 34 program for veterans.

About Shelly Mckay

Member Organizations:

  • Certified Cannabis Specialist
  • Member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians
  • OC NORML Executive Director
  • OC Women Grow Market Leader
  • Americans for Safe Access

Educational Courses Taught:

  • Green Flower Media - Subject Matter Expert - Cannabis Patient Care Certificate Program
  • CSULB - Osher Lifelong Learning Institute - Healthy Not High
  • Cannabis Dispensary Educator - Budtender Fight Club
  • Medicinal Cannabis Educational Session for Clinicians - Collaboration with MaxLove Project


Courses & Certifications completed:

  • Healer - Wellness Advisor via Dr. Dustin Sulak Certification Course
  • Medical Cannabis Curriculum for Nurses through The Medical Cannabis Institute
  • Green Flower Cannabis Fundamentals
  • CannMed 2018 Pre-Conference CME Course
  • Cannabinoids in Medicine CE Program
  • RX for Prevention: Cannabis for LA County Providers
  • St. Judes Medical Center SJMC Medical cannabis: A Clinical Focus CE
  • Cannabis Nurses Network Certification Course - Rooted in Science, Nourished by Knowledge.
  • ASA Cannabis Care Certification Patient & Caregiver Education Program
  • Institute for Natural Resources - Marijuana & Cannabinoids: What Health Professionals Need to Know

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About Mieko Hester-Perez

Mieko Hester-Perez, International Autism & Cannabis Healthcare Advocate


In 2009, Mieko Hester-Perez decided to go public with her son's success with medical cannabis and since that day in 2009, she has become a source of inspiration and information for families looking to explore unconventional and holistic treatment options within the autism spectrum.


All posts by Mieko Hester-Perez