CENTREVILLE — Just off Centreville Road, in the back row of a business park, is a small medicinal cannabis dispensary called Ash + Ember. It’s got a rectangular white sign displaying the shop name at the top of the brick building and just a few parking spaces cut out in front of the store.
The small business has been quietly operating for a few years, serving a large chunk of the customers on the Mid-Shore. Besides Sunburst Pharm in Cambridge, it’s the only medical marijuana dispensary on the Mid-Shore.
With about 900 products available — from edibles to marijuana flower and even hats, shirts and lotions — Ash + Ember has 18 employees serving hundreds of customers a day since opening in 2018.
“Business is great. We have lots of patients in our roster, and we’re open seven days a week. There’s tons of demand,” said Ashley Colen, co-owner of the dispensary.
At the front of the store, employees check a customer’s I.D. from behind a front counter. Down the hall and through a set of doors is the main shop, lined with shelves fully-stacked with colorful products and packaging. A counter wraps around the back end of the shop, where employees are busy preparing orders.
Ash + Ember, a small business run by Ashley Colen and her sister, Paige — she calls it a “mom-and-mom shop” — is part of a shrinking pool of small cannabis dispensaries in the state and nationally. With full legalization for recreational use expected this year or next in Maryland, that pool could shrink even smaller. Independent as well as and women and minority dispensary owners could face another uphill climb.
Ashley Colen said it’s already difficult to compete with the larger chains and multi-state operators in the state, which can open up to four dispensaries and can vertically