We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelly McKay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shelly, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
Compassion and integrity matter the most to me. My mother was a nurse. All I saw my whole life was my mother taking care of people.
In my life and in my work, I am a caretaker. That extends to the network of people around me. Compassion matters for a lot of different reasons. In the big scheme of things, there’s a lot going on and taking the time out for your fellow humans is important.
In the context of the cannabis industry, California was the first state to enact medical cannabis. It was for patients, to be used as medicine. When Prop 64 was passed, it left the patients behind by eliminating free access to cannabis donations. It also helped to drive people out of the legal market, making it harder for veterans, those fighting illnesses, and more to have safe access.
That’s why I worked to start the Veterans Compassion Network locally with Eric Goepel—a veteran, advocate, and founder of Veterans Cannabis Coalition—to help veterans with donations and safe access through a new law, SB-34, at Kannabis Works in Santa Ana.
We also support other patients through SB-34 including cancer patients, Dr. Bonni Goldstein’s pediatric patients, and others.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think a lot of what helps me to stand out in my industry can be attributed to my steadfast vision that “cannabis is medicine.” Through this lens I’ve been able to help people and educate people in a way that is uncommon for cannabis users to encounter if they’ve been used to the “legacy market.” This carries over to Kannabis Works in Santa Ana, which is much more than just a legal cannabis store.
It’s our vision and mission to change the narrative and public stigma around cannabis. It is a tool for wellness. The roles of our employees are that of Cannabis Coaches. The role they play is a key part of the interaction and communication that a client receives as they consider choices and options provided based on their needs and interests.
I’m most proud of our work with veterans, childhood cancer patients and others in need of donated medical cannabis through SB-34. This is compassion in action. The longer I am involved in the industry, the more I want to fight to make a difference: Veterans, Children, Athletes, Social Justice, Opioid epidemic. Since March 2020 we have had 11 events with the Veterans Compassion Network, and through the generosity of cannabis companies throughout the state, we have donated clean and tested products continually to hundreds of veterans.
Our journey in opening Kannabis Works was not easy. We had blips along the way, and were the last Measure BB dispensary to open in Santa Ana. We had our work cut out for us. We knew that with the approach we were taking that cannabis is a tool for wellness, that it may take awhile to grow the business. Over time we grew communities through the dispensary and hosted many events; we were on a great pace with our education series until the pandemic.
Even though we were grateful to be deemed essential and were allowed to remain open, we had to find a new way to reach our consumers. We opened up a consultation link on our website so I could meet with people who had a genuine need for cannabis as medicine. Our Senior Outreach Director, Alisha Diaz, developed the Silver Wave Cannabis Club to educate seniors online about the benefits and risks of cannabis. We adapted to the new norm and have found our niche in this industry as our business continues to thrive.
I have learned many lessons along the way. Be patient, persevere. Don’t ever get comfortable.
Overall, I want the world to know that I am a compassionate and altruistic human who seeks to ease the suffering of others. I am fulfilled when I’m helping others. I watched my own mother who is a nurse care for critical care dialysis patients. I sat beside her while I watched her nurse her own mother and then her sister in hospice care. She taught me what compassion is. When we both went to see the Dalai Lama, his message was clear: “Compassion matters.”
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Each of us in our own way can try to spread compassion into people’s hearts. Western civilizations these days place great importance on filling the human ‘brain’ with knowledge, but no one seems to care about filling the human ‘heart’ with compassion.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Orange County is full of eclectic and different things to do. I’m fond of the ocean and Catalina Island, which is a great day trip to enjoy nature. I’d also take them to Disneyland & California Adventure in Anaheim, and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park (with a stop to nearby Porto’s).
I would take them to Long Beach, and Santa Ana also. The city’s live music venues, The Observatory and Yost Theater, book great bands. And, of course, Kannabis Works is there too.
Some of the can’t-miss options would be:
-Yoga class on the sand at the HB pier + volleyball, swimming and surfing; dinner at Pete’s Mexican Restaurant on 5th during sunset at the beach
-Breakfast at Michele’s Sugar Shack & a ride to SeaLegs for live music and lunch. Pacific City & the rooftop lounge at the Hilton Waterfront for sunset after that.
-Day trip to Catalina (on the Catalina Flyer) with breakfast at the Alley in Newport Beach; Descanso Beach Club for lunch; plus a visit to the casino and the Zip Line Eco Tour
-A Saturday trip to the Orange Circle in Old Towne Orange for the Orange Home Grown Farmer’s Market; lunch at Filling Station; ice cream at Watson’s Soda Fountain and dinner at Gabby’s. Then over to Fountain Valley for the Jam Skating Party! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are a lot of people and organizations to thank!
My mother, who has always inspired me and been a supporter of mine. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer I was able use my cannabis knowledge to help her in her treatment.
My daughter Alex, who works hand-in-hand with me in this industry.
Alisha Diaz, the Senior Outreach Director at Kannabis Works, who I mentored for the last year. She runs one of the best senior outreach programs (the Silver Wave Cannabis Club) of any dispensary around.
Organizationally, I want to shout out OC NORML, Kannabis Works, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Americans for Safe Access, Dear Cannabis, and Last Prisoner Project … there are a lot more but these are some of my favorite patient-focused entities.