Special Recognition Awards Voting


Each year the Board of Directors at the Women’s Canna Awards and the Aurora Society open the nomination pool to the general public for a series of special recognition awards. Three award recipients are selected by the team at WCA and two awards are People’s Choice awards and will be voted on by the public in the name of raising funds for our benificary, Saving Sophie. This years awards include:


Welcome to the Special Recognition Awards, where we shine our light on remarkable women shaping the future of the cannabis industry. These awards are nomination-based, driven by the people’s choice. It’s time to acknowledge and honor the individuals inspiring us by pushing boundaries, breaking barriers, and creating positive change. 


The Community Cultivator award celebrates individuals or organizations that have made a significant impact in fostering a strong sense of community within the cannabis industry. This award recognizes efforts and dedication to community building, collaboration, and support within the industry and regularly uplifts others as a result. The recipient of this award is an expert in giving back to the community.

Leila R Soveron Ovando

Leila Soveron Ovando is a cannabis culinary chef with over 20 years of experience in the kitchen. She was born and raised in San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District. Leila is a mother of three and has a remarkable journey in the culinary world.
She has worked with cannabis companies such as Mellows, Meadows and Cannasueir series a 5 course cannabis infused dinner.

Leila’s passion for cooking and cannabis led her to create a unique program for Cannabis Culinary Infusion program at MLVS, which was funded by the Office of Workforce Development of the city of San Francisco.

As a first-generation Mexican and Salvadoran, Leila’s heritage has greatly influenced her culinary style and creativity. Her relationship with cannabis began at a young age, starting at just 11 years old. It became a part of her daily routine, as she used it to find solace and creativity. In the challenging environment of the 90s, Leila navigated gang wars, using her love for cannabis, theater, and food as a means of escape and self-expression.

She is working hard to eradicate the cannabis stigma and give her community the eduction and access they need to be a part of this budding cannabis industry and medicinal plant.

This program is a testament to the
resilience and ability to turn life’s challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation in the culinary and cannabis world

Whitney Beatty

“Whitney Beatty is a dynamic former reality television development exec turned cannabis entrepreneur. Her cannabis storage company Apothecarry Brands, Inc. was selected for the first cohort of Canopy San Diego cannabis business accelerator and won the ArcView Groups 2017 Los Angeles pitch prize. She also serves as founder & CEO of Josephine & Billie’s, the first dispensary catered to the recreational and medicinal needs of women of color, which was selected as the first investment for the TPCO Social Equity Fund and recently partnered with Off The Charts. Whitney is a fierce advocate for equity and women of color in the cannabis space, and serves as VP for Supernova Women an 501c3 that encourages women of color to become equity stakeholders in the cannabis industry via advocacy, education and networking and also serves as the VP of the LA Cannabis Equity Retailers Association.

Rachelle Gordon

“Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and the editor of GreenState. She has become a critical voice in the emerging industry, traversing North America for the last seven years, covering the space as it developed. Rachelle has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, MG Magazine, Cannabis & Tech Today, Beard Bros, Skunk, and many other industry publications. She is also a partner in the Women in Cannabis Study, a living history of women working in weed.

Luna Stower

Luna Stower is Chief Impact Officer at Ispire Vape Technology in L.A.

A renowned executive and thought-leader in the space, her expertise in designing and manufacturing high-quality cannabis vaporization hardware has significantly influenced the sector.

With 2 decades industry experience, Luna was recognized as ‘Top 100 Women in Cannabis’ by Green Entrepreneur for her role in developing prominent cannabis brands like Jetty Extracts & Click Spray.

Starting as the first employee at both Jetty and Ispire, she’s played a pivotal role in their growth.

A Bay Area native with a Master’s in Education (USF) & BA in Social Justice (UCSC), she’s an internationally-acclaimed keynote speaker, panelist & plant medicine educator, widely-honored for her contributions to drug policy & social equity.

Her work greatly impacted legacy cannabis brands via social responsibility & brand loyalty initiatives.


The Lifetime Achievement award is a prestigious honor bestowed upon a woman who has made significant contributions to the development of the cannabis industry over the course of her career or lifetime. We recognize exceptional and sustained excellence in social justice, mentorship, advocacy, plant medicine, plant science, community service, education, and/or more. This individual will be selected for leaving a profound impact and lasting legacy on the industry as we know it today.

Sue Taylor

Sue Taylor is a retired Catholic School Principal and the co-founder of Farmacy Berkeley, a cannabis dispensary known for providing the most up-to-date cannabis education, high-quality products, and caring staff. Sue founded iCANN in 2009 with her Son and Daughter-In-Law with the vision of opening a community dispensary focused on educating seniors about cannabis, improving their quality of life, and dispelling stigma. She is also the founder and creator of Mama Sue Wellness with two tinctures on the market suited for the needs of seniors. Mama Sue’s Mission is to close a generational gap and help eliminate the stigma surrounding the cannabis plant. She’s seen firsthand the healing benefits received and is out to change the mindset of ‘reefer madness’ to one of curiosity and social acceptance.

Dale Sky Jones

Dale Sky Jones is the original spokeswoman for the modern cannabis legalization movement & mom of 3 kids with industry pioneer Jeff Jones. The award-winning documentary, “American Pot Story: Oaksterdam,” is based on that legalization campaign, subsequent federal raid, and Oaksterdam’s decades-long fight to deschedule cannabis.

Dale & OU Team works across many states and localities, offering cutting-edge workforce development and Responsible Vendor Training, crafting The Budtenders’ Guide and Writers’ Style Guide. Since 2007, Oaksterdam University has taught over 100,000 alums from 110 countries with trusted certification programs for Business, Horticulture, Budtending, Extractions, and Manufacturing for workforce, owners, and regulators. She is the Program Director of Social Equity technical assistance, coaching, and accelerator programs for New Jersey, Connecticut, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.

Aundre Speciale

Aundre Speciale

Aundre Speciale began her lifelong love and dedication to cannabis advocacy in 1990 when her neighbor Jack Herer invited her to join him on the Hemp Bus. They toured California promoting hemp for fuel, food, fiber, fun, and medicine. For the last several decades Aundre has tirelessly advocated on behalf of the cannabis plant through community cultivation and organizing, and in 2004 she opened one of the first of many dispensaries in California. She implemented a legacy dispensary model that focused on compassion, patient services, and community responsibility. Her inclusive and welcoming way of dispensing cannabis includes opening community centers and working closely with community organizers and city officials. Aundre’s work within the industry continues to inspire women, create enlightened cannabis policy, and fund major cannabis research and reform projects. Aundre and her two adult children, Electra and Will, are currently operating one of the country’s oldest dispensaries CBCB in Berkley, California, which has been a community pillar since 1996.

Kimberly Cargile

Kimberly Cargile has been dedicated to advancing the cannabis industry as an activist, educator and business leader for almost two decades. She has been a cannabis cultivator and manufacturer for 20 years and has operated storefront dispensaries for 17, going back to the days when they were underground and it was a serious stand of activism. Over the years she has been a persistent voice at City Council and County Board of Supervisor meetings across California. She has been a boots on the ground advocate to enact many pieces of State Legislature and regulations, providing over 100 government tours of her businesses. Over the years, she has brought on 18 of her female employees to join her in the ownership role. Together they own 9 dispensaries, 2 farms and a shared manufacturing and distribution company. Without any corporate funding, they have become a force to recon with, proving that when women work together and support one another they can achieve anything!


The social justice award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to promoting and advancing social justice principles, equality, and human rights. This prestigious award honors those who have worked tirelessly to create positive change and address systemic injustices in the cannabis industry communities or on a broader scale. The ideal recipient of this award will have a commitment to equality, embody empowerment and collaboration, demonstrate advocacy and activism, and make a significant impact on social justice and human rights in the cannabis space. 

Shannon Donnelly

With a dynamic career spanning 16 years in the Cannabis industry, she brings a wealth of expertise and a passion for positive change. Her journey began in 2007, and she has consistently championed the growth and transformation of this evolving sector.

As the former Cannabis Process Navigator, she delved deep into the regulatory landscape, devising innovative solutions and spearheading the Cannabis Cares program. During her tenure, she proudly facilitated the licensing of over 20 social equity applicants, paving the way for a more inclusive industry.

Today, she wear multiple hats, each reflecting her unwavering commitment to the Cannabis world. She serve as a consultant for leading Cannabis brands, leveraging her extensive knowledge to drive growth and success. Simultaneously, she is nurturing the next generation of industry leaders as an educator at MSU Denver, where she share insights within the School of Hospitality.

Beyond her professional roles, she is the proud owner of Betty’s Petals, a flourishing flower business, and an avid planner, always strategizing and envisioning new possibilities.

Bianca Gutirrez

Bianca Gutierrez, founder and owner of BSA (B Starr Agency), a cannabis focused creative agency that centers around brand development & lifestyle through events with a hyper focus on community. Bianca is a first generation latina, born & raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is also a verified social equity applicant. Through her background growing up in SF and working across the industries of fashion, music, nightlife as well as various community based campaigns & initiatives, cannabis has always been a common thread bringing folks together whether that’s socially, medicinally or via commerce. Bianca brings
knowledge to the industry with her diverse background as has worked her way via dispensary, manufacturing centers to distribution. She knows the pivot and breakthrough came breaking into a new industry and thriving.

Stephanie Shepard

Stephanie Shepard was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in 2010. Stephanie was sentenced to ten years as a first-time, non-violent offender in the Federal Bureau Of Prisons. After serving nine years, she was placed on federal probation for another five years.

Stephanie now serves as Last Prisoner Project’s Director of Advocacy and sits on the organization’s Board of Directors. She is adamantly advocating for restorative justice for those who have suffered and continue to suffer as she has from the criminalization of cannabis.

Evelyn LaChapelle

Evelyn LaChapelle. In 2013, Evelyn found herself facing adversity, convicted on three charges related to her minor role in a marijuana distribution operation. Despite a challenging period that led to an 87-month prison sentence, Evelyn emerged stronger and determined to make a positive impact.

Today, Evelyn is a driving force in the legal cannabis industry, utilizing her professional position to advocate for restorative justice. As the proud owner and founder of The Weed Lady gift shop and lifestyle brand, she is on a mission to normalize cannabis consumption and create opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to find their path in this evolving industry.

Evelyn’s journey is a powerful narrative of both defeat and victory. She is committed to pushing her brand, The Weed Lady, forward with a focus on luxury cannabis essentials, apparel, cannabis delivery, and soon-to-be-released cannabis beverages. Beyond her entrepreneurial ventures, Evelyn is the co-creator of CannaKick-it, the Bay Area’s premier cannabis day party. Additionally, she is a founding member of Ladies Loving and Living, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving women post-incarceration.

In 2023, Evelyn took her passion for empowering others to the airwaves with the launch of her own podcast, “Grind Time.” This podcast serves as a behind-the-scenes look at becoming an entrepreneur, offering valuable insights and practical advice.

Evelyn LaChapelle is not just a name but a symbol of resilience, advocacy, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Timeka Drew

Timeka Drew is an operating social equity license holder and seasoned cannabis industry executive. She is the founder and CEO of Biko, a California-born cannabis brand focused on producing luxurious, effective products. She has held executive positions for many respected operators, including 4Front Ventures, Eaze and NUG. Timeka sits on the board of the Cannabis Equity Retailers Association (CERA) and Social Equity LA, and is a proud member of the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association (SEOWA). She serves on the Hall of Flowers Social Equity Committee and has worked with many organizations in support of building equity and community reinvestment programs.

Timeka entered the cannabis industry in California in the early 2000’s as a medical patient and advocate, where she ran a doctor and patient referral service and placed the first advertisements for legal cannabis in Los Angeles. She recently served as a social equity business consultant and coach for the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation’s Business Licensing and Compliance Assistance program through Oaksterdam University, where she currently serves as an instructor, supporting applicants in Connecticut and New Jersey. She is a proud Advisor for BIPOCann, where she also serves as a mentor as a part of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development & International Trade cannabis social equity grant program.

The Most Supportive Ally to Women in Wee award recognizes individuals or organizations that have demonstrated exceptional support, advocacy, and empowerment of women working in the cannabis sector. This award acknowledges their efforts in promoting gender equality, fostering inclusivity, works collaboratively, and creates opportunities for women in a historically male-dominated industry. 

Saman Razani

Saman is a lean-minded pioneer of the cannabis industry, clocking 15 years of experience in regulated markets. His expertise in the production of regulated cannabis products and the manufacturing of various products, has allowed him to deepen his passion and develop a wide range of skills and trail-blaze new markets and develop new standardized production techniques for the manufacturing sector. Saman is known in the industry for building, executing, and managing the manufacturing arms of some of the largest and most successful cannabis companies across the country including The Green Solution (now Columbia Care), Sweet Leaf Marijuana Centers, Grow Healthy (FL- Now ianthus), INSA (MA,FL,PA), and Glass House Farms/Group (CA). Saman is responsible for executing product development/conception and production launches in California for companies such as Raw Garden Wonderbrett, Cresco Labs, qTeam Elite Genetics, Field Extracts, and Hello Again Products, and Prophet Brands, a Social justice brand launching in CA in 2024.

Ricardo Baca

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist and cannabis futurist, widely respected in both modern media and drug-policy circles. He was appointed The Denver Post’s first-ever cannabis editor in 2013 and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of the U.S. adult-use cannabis market and related issues around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers. Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency in 2016 to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, from cannabis and psychedelics to spirits and healthcare. In 2023, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Ricardo to the state’s first-ever Natural Medicine Advisory Board to contribute to policy development around the state’s eventual psychedelics framework. Named one of Fortune’s 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry in 2016 and Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work. In addition to his previous journalistic coverage of drug policy, cannabis business and culture, Ricardo continues to host panel discussions at events nationwide and contribute columns for a number of top publications including Rolling Stone. He is also a sought-after thought leader in media, cultural events and podcasts, and has spoken on The Colbert Report, NPR’s All Things Considered, TEDxBoulder, TEDxMarin and multiple years at SXSW.

Tim Blake

Tim Blake

Founder of The Emerald Cup & Author Tim Blake, Producer of The Emerald Cup in it’s 18th year, is a visionary, entrepreneur, activist, cannabis outlaw. As an author, his memoirs will share his journey from being a 19 year old real estate agent and family man to becoming a major influencer, activist and player in the Cannabis Industry. The Emerald Cup is the longest running organic, cannabis competition, B2B and community gathering in the world with over 30,000 attendees and a contest that is considered “the Academy Awards of Cannabis” according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Along with Cannabis, Tim is at the forefront of the emerging field of psychedelic therapeutics, spiritual ceremonial use and industry education on best practices.

The WCA award for the most environmentally conscious company recognizes an organization that has demonstrated exceptional commitment and leadership in promoting environmental sustainability and adopting eco-friendly practices across its operations. This award highlights the company’s dedication to minimizing its environmental impact, fostering sustainable practices, and driving positive change for the planet. 

Beth Corbett

Elizabeth Corbett

Elizabeth Corbett, President of Enterprise for AE Global, is on a mission to build sustainable packaging & supply chain programs for Cannabis and CBD companies which honor their brand identity, drive revenue, protect the product and meet their budget. “CannaBeth” entered the Cannabis industry more than ten years ago after spending the first part of her career developing packaging solutions for leading global retail and health & beauty giants such as Starbucks, Tiffany, & Estee Lauder. Based in Seattle and Miami, Beth is passionate about finding environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions no matter what the form or substrate. She has served on the packaging & labeling and sustainability committees of the NCIA, as well as being a founding member of C-Beyond, the Cannabis Executive Women’s Assoc and former board member of the Sustainable Packaging Association.

Lorelie Sandomeno

As a cannabis cultivator for 25 years, I am deeply honored and grateful to be working with this medicinal plant because of its physiological and spiritual value. Embodying the dream of raising a family while cultivating potent medicine with the principles of land stewardship in balance with nature. Through building healthy soils, conserving water and resources, planting native hedgerows and companion planting, we regenerate the land and nurture the earth. Farm made nutrient recipes enhance the natural expression of genetics and reduce plastic waste.

Maintaining ‘Sun and Earth’ and ‘Equity Trade’ certifications. Working with wildlife biologists who are researching and creating a new gold standard of certification, ‘Wildlife Conscious Certification’, with the purpose of protecting and restoring wildlife on cannabis farms.

Thoughtfully keeping packaging to a minimum and choosing sustainable glass and PHA home compostable/biodegradable options to house our solventless products on retail shelves. Pioneering a bright future.

Pepper Hernandez

Dr. Pepper Hernandez, ND PHD, is a highly accomplished Naturopath with classical training and numerous awards over the year. As a Dual Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Certified Natural Health Professional, and Live Food Nutritionist, she brings over a decade of experience in private practice in Arcata, California. Currently, Dr. Hernandez provides her services worldwide through telemedicine.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Hernandez is a renowned global Speaker, Writer, Journalist, and Educator. She is the Founder and Educational Director of the Cannabis Holistic Institute, located in Humboldt County, California. Dr. Pepper Hernandez advocates for holistic cannabis usage, emphasizing the significance of sun-grown organic whole plant medicine sourced from regenerative small farms.

Judi Nelson

Judi Nelson is a cannabis farmer, climate activist, wholistic physical therapist, off grid living homesteader and mom who wants to help all humans live their highest purpose.

In 2018 Judi and her husband, Walter Wood, founded Sol Spirit Farm and Retreats, an Earth Conscious cannabis brand and glamping retreat center, to produce the highest quality, most environmentally friendly cannabis possible for California consumers and to create a space for people to come and reconnect with Nature and learn about how we can reverse climate change through regenerative farming.

Through all the trials and tribulations of transitioning to the regulated market, cultivating cannabis outside in the elements, and running a small brand in the turbulent California market, what keeps her going is the steadfast belief that we can heal ourselves and the Earth and create an abundant and fertile world for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

Lilli Keinaenen

Changemaker Creative is a sustainable packaging and branding designer for wellness companies with heart. With a focus on sustainable packaging for conscious consumer product brands, she’s deeply passionate about saving the planet through better design. Through a collaborative design process, she helps companies attract a cult following of loyal customers. Clients include award-winning brands sold at major retailers and cannabis and CBD clients across the US. You can often find her speaking on stages about sustainability, packaging, and design. She also is writing a book, Impeccable Edibles Packaging, launching alongside a digital course.

Award Selection Process

The nominations for all award categories are made by the global cannabis community through our website each year. The winners of the Social Justice, Environmentally Conscious, and Ally to Women in Weed are all then Considered and selected by the Board of the WCA and Aurora Society.