Legal Marijuana Arrives on the Shore: Meet Ash + Paige of Centreville


At least in some parts of the Eastern Shore, if there was a referendum held tomorrow proposing that marijuana be banned in Maryland for the next two centuries, the odds are pretty good that it would pass by an overwhelming majority. While that might be an exaggeration, it is accurate to say that the Shore, with its mostly rural and politically conservative citizens, have a very skeptical view of the use of cannabis for any reason.

But the state in which they reside had quite a different point of view as Maryland joined 29 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing the medical or recreational use of the plant. And, as a result, Annapolis has recently finalized the issuing of permits for marijuana distribution outlets.

So it may be a shock for those on the Shore to see that one of those medical cannabis dispensaries is almost ready for business in none other than Centreville, Maryland.

Found in a professional park alongside doctor offices and the YMCA, last-minute preparations are underway for the opening of Ash + Ember Cannabis, the commercial name of the store owned by Hippocratic Growth, LLC as it prepares to open its doors as the first legal venue on the Mid-Shore to legally sell medical cannabis.

Adding to this notable moment is the fact that Hippocratic Growth is actually a family business.  Sisters, Ashley Herr and Paige Colen, along with the help of other family members, led an almost four-year effort to reach this milestone. Working through state delays on licensing  and some opposition from the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners by blocking a building permit (an appeal filed by Hippocratic Growth is pending at the Court of Special Appeal), the opening of Ash + Ember has become an exciting climax to battle long waged.

Unapologetically pro-pot, the sisters see Ash + Ember as the first of many in the eventual legalization of the recreational use of marijuana and therefore have designed a business plan that will eventually transition from a medical dispensary to a well-branded boutique store that will eventually produce and design its products no differently than a beer microbrewery does today.

The Spy sat down with the owners last week at Ash + Ember to talk about this remarkable new chapter in Eastern Shore entrepreneurship.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Ash + Ember Cannabis please go here


Maryland Legislature Overrides Two of Gov. Hogan’s Vetoes


The Maryland Senate on Friday, following the state House one day earlier, overrode two vetoes by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, including one that would require some businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees.

Under the new paid sick leave law, any business with 15 or more full-time employees will be required to give workers at least five days of earned sick and safe leave and is expected to extend to more than 500,000 Marylanders.

The law, which took about five years to pass, will pay the leave at the employee’s regular wage, according to a state legislative summary.

Republicans argued that the legislation could hurt smaller businesses and deter hiring, especially among “opportunity employers,” — who take on less-skilled or riskier hires — said Sen. Robert Cassilly, R-Harford and Cecil.

In the Senate, the override passed largely along party lines, 30-17.

Democrats, who hold the majority in both the Maryland House and the Senate, sponsored both pieces of legislation, which Hogan had vetoed last spring.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday also overrode the same two vetoes by Hogan — paid sick leave and the Maryland Fair Access to Education Act of 2017, also known as “Ban the Box.”

This law will prohibit colleges and universities in Maryland from requesting information about the criminal history of applicants on initial admissions forms. Schools could still consider an applicant’s criminal history later in the admission process.

Overrides of that legislation passed 90-50 in the House on Thursday, and 32-15 in the Senate on Friday.

The votes in both chambers were largely along party lines, during a General Assembly session expected to be influenced by national and state politics.
The sick-leave legislation passed 88-52 in the House.

“We have to hear the cries of people like me…,” Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, said on the House floor Thursday, referring to a period in her life when she experienced domestic violence.
Senate Minority Whip Stephen Hershey, R-Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil and Caroline, has a small business with 14 employees. This bill, he said, would make him think twice before hiring a 15th because he would have to provide paid sick leave for all of them.

Democrats, however, argued that paid sick leave was long overdue and that they owed it to their constituencies to act.

Hogan supports paid sick leave, but said in a statement the Democrats’ bill would penalize small businesses.

On Wednesday, Hogan introduced a “compromise” bill that would start with larger businesses and eventually apply to companies with 25 or more employees, phasing in by the year 2020. It also would not require an explanation for the absence.

House Republicans said the Democrats’ measure, which would require employees to disclose the reason for an absence of more than two consecutive days, would violate privacy.

Hogan is running for reelection, and a number of Democrats have announced they are running in the primary to challenge him. Maryland lawmakers are also bracing for changes at the federal level, under the administration of President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress.

The sick-leave measure is expected to take effect in 30 days.

By Hannah Brockway and Alex Mann.  CNS correspondent Katherine Brzozowski contributed to this report.

Op-Ed: Political Earthquakes are Cruel and Avoidable by Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott


A truly devastating 2001 earthquake prompted our government to grant “Temporary Protected Status” to homeless families from El Salvador.

Today, some 260,000 Salvadorans work and live in our country. About 20,000 of these men. women, and children, live right here in Maryland. Republican and Democratic administrations extended the program, for humanitarian reasons.

These residents, who live peacefully among us, are law abiding, have been demonstrably productive workers, paid taxes, raised families, bought homes, bolstered economic development of their communities, and graduated from schools and universities.

For example, I have known a Salvadoran family who came here after the earthquake. Since then, their five children have grown into model Americans and are now in the work force. All have graduated from high school. One attends university and is also an office manager in an insurance firm, two work in agricultural related concerns, and two are managers in service and food businesses. All attend church. All are kind, generous, capable and caring people of whom I’m very proud. They are testimony to what makes us a great nation.

But those decent people are in danger, and very afraid. Now a political earthquake is threatening both them and the Eastern Shore itself.

Out of the blue, on Jan. 8, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, announced she would end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador, with a delayed effective date of 18 months, to allow for an “orderly transition”, before the designation terminates totally on Sept. 9, 2019.” ( retrieved January 11, 2018.)

So, ask yourself, “What is a family who has lived here for 16 years to do now? Should they leave all that they have built and achieved and move back to a country that is not ready to receive them? Should they leave their children, many of whom are in fact U.S. citizens, behind?”

Ask too: “Who will replace the workers forced to leave their jobs?

Above all, ask: “Why is this sudden change of policy necessary?” It is an affront to our fundamental values as an immigrant nation. It is mean-spirited. Don’t we value the “American Dream?”

Don’t we want to keep families together, not split them apart? Can’t we give our Salvadoran neighbors, who have given so much to this nation, a path to obtaining a Green Card and eventually become citizens? Terminating this program is not in our own self-interest.

Please join me in asking our Maryland Senators to work toward a humane and comprehensive immigration policy. Senators Van Hollen and Cardin are doing their best to protect all of the people in Maryland.

The real problem is on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans and the Trump administration just bequeathed to our children and grandchildren a $1.5 trillion deficit to pay off, so that the rich and corporations have even more largesse. They are dismantling programs that give working and middle class people a fair chance to improve their lives. They are fostering division between classes, races, and nationalities.

For the Eastern Shore, one of the biggest problems in Washington is Dr. Andy Harris our Congressional representative. He votes against anything that helps us — for example, to name just one matter, Federal aid to help Eastern Shore Marylanders to recover from Hurricane Sandy. He votes for legislation which helps the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class citizens, like the recent tax scam.

Join me in asking Dr. Harris, to stop hurting the Eastern Shore business community because of his punitive and mean ideology. Most of all, ask Dr. Harris to stop punishing the Eastern Shore

by raising our taxes, depleting our workforce, supporting regressive immigration policies, and undermining the democracy we all hold so dear.


Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott is affiliated with Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

MLK Birthday: Maryland’s Juvenile Services Abed on Policy Bias and Black Youth Incarceration


For many years now, the Spy has made it a point to track down keynote speakers for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast in Rock Hall for a one-on-one conversation with these remarkable people. While the Spy continues to cover this popular event live, we wanted our readers, most of whom are unable to attend, to understand from these distinguished civil rights leaders, scholars, educators, and government officials the importance of Dr. King’s life but also their thoughts on his legacy in the context of race relations today.

This year, it is Maryland’s Secretary of Juvenile Services, Sam Abed’s turn.

The Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) has the job of managing, supervising, and treating youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system at every stage of the juvenile justice process. From the moment a young person is brought into a juvenile intake center to the time he/she returns to the community after treatment, the DJS has been in a unique position to understand first-hand how Martin Luther King’s vision of justice compares to the reality found in Maryland’s policies and procedures today.

And Secretary Abed is the first to admit, the gaps between Dr. King’s dream and current public policy remains grievously large and extremely difficult to fulfill in some cases.

An example that Abed immediately brings up his own department’s efforts to eliminate systemic bias with the use of a unique decision-making process. Encouraged by early results of using “objective decision tools,” DJS implemented an agency-wide review to weed out racial prejudice from its day-to-day operations. And while he believed his department made a good faith effort to do so, the data results of those efforts were disappointing enough to him and his colleagues to start the review process again.

This gap also remains significant in the percentage of black youth increateated for non-violent offenses. While national trends suggest a markedly reduced level of young people held in state facilities, the racial disparity between incarcerated black youths compared with white adolescents rose by 22%.

In his Spy interview, Secretary Abed remains confident that these systemic issues will eventually be resolved but reminds us that equal justice under the law remains a goal rather than a current reality.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Maryland’s Secretary of Juvenile Services please go here. The MLK Jr. Breakfast is sponsored by the Chester Valley Ministers’ Association, and will be held on January 15 starting  7am and the program will begin at 8 am in Rock Hall. 

Mid-Shore Towns and Traffic: A Counterintuitive Solution for Intersections


From the intersections of Cross Street and Maple Avenue in Chestertown to Harrison and Goldsborough Streets in Easton, small Eastern Shore communities are increasingly confounded with growing automobile congestion in their towns,  particularly at critical traffic intersections.

In fact, many municipalities are facing somewhat of a zero-sum game by trying to keep a healthy traffic flow for drivers at a time when those same downtowns seek more pedestrians and bicyclists to improve their retail sectors and general quality of life.

As a result, the conundrum of how to make a workable intersection remains for most.

That was one of the reasons the Spy initiated a conversation with Chris Velasco and Elizabeth Bowling, co-founders of the urban planning consulting group PLACE, who are currently doing work on the Shore, to see if there were any new solutions in other small towns across the globe that significantly has reduced traffic congestion at these critical crossroads.

As just like the last time the Spy asked PLACE for insights on new thinking for town planning, Chris and Elizabeth not only came up with a unique model to share but an exceedingly successful one from the small village of Poynton (population 15,000) not far from the city of Manchester in England. One of the first towns in the world to install a “double roundel” or double roundabout, the new junction reduces the four-lane approaches to two lanes, allowing pedestrians and bikes to cross quickly, and at the same time eliminate traffic signals. The results, according to town reports, indicate that businesses have seen increased foot traffic, and congestion has been considerably lessened as a result.

And while it was intriguing to hear about this in concept, it was only after one looks at actual video footage of the double roundel that the pure magic of this solution can be seen in real time.

This video is approximately three minutes in length and was produced in partnership with the Easton Economic Development Corporation.  Additional video provided by Martin Cassini. See the full documentary here


Looking Back: A Conversation with Shore Bancshares Chair Chris Spurry


When Chris Spurry was appointed to be the chair of the board of the Talbot Bank in 2006, he felt both honored and excited to take on this role during a time in banking when, as he recalled it, “a blind chicken could get fat.” The economy in general, and real estate in particular, was hitting historic highs in value and returns on investment. To be part of this extraordinary moment in Delmarva prosperity could not have been more fulfilling for him.

The St. Michaels native also saw this new role on the board of this highly regarded community bank as another positive outcome of his decision to move his a manufacturers’ representatives firm to Talbot County in 1983 after over thirty years serving in senior leadership positions with a Fortune 500 manufacturing corporation and food equipment supplier based in New York City. With Spurry (now Spurry-Curren and Associates) operating out of Easton, Chris was able to return home to the Mid-Shore he loved and directly particulate in its economic future.

But when troubling financial smoke signals were popping up in 2007, which later unfolded the following year into the country’s most significant economic collapse since the Great Depression, Scott and his fellow board members realized quickly that within this short period, the entire future of the Talbot Bank, Centreville National Bank, Avon-Dixon Insurance, and Wye Financial & Trust were now being severely threatened.

And as a result of this perfect storm, the Talbot Bank directors oversaw one of the most dramatic and sweeping corporate reconfigurations in the commercial history of the Eastern Shore.

In short order, the board was strengthened, a new senior management team was hired, banking operations were consolidated, as well as dozens of other operational changes required to cope with this new economic environment as well as an unprecedented wave of fiduciary regulations.

Now, after nine years of hard work and significant cultural change, Shore Bancshares is safely out of the woods and thriving.

The Spy caught with Chris at the Shore Bancshares corporate headquarters last month to talk about this extraordinary time in banking history as he steps down from being one of Shore Bancshares’ longest-serving board Chairs.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Shore Bancshares please go here


Mid-Shore Arts: Elizabeth Casqueiro and her Superheroes


Needless to say, every artist has their own particular journey that leads them to produce their distinctive work, but it’s hard to imagine better circumstances that prepared Talbot County-based Elizabeth Casqueiro for a second life as a painter.

An architect by training, a senior management executive at the World Bank by vocation, Elizabeth led the bank’s building division with the enviable task of working with world-class architects on the design and construction of dozens of buildings throughout the world. But when she hit mandatory retirement at 62, she didn’t think twice about returning to her real passion for drawing and painting.

From that moment on, Elizabeth has used her studios in Washington and at the Davis Street Art Center and Easton to create landscapes that reconnect her childhood superhero comic book impressions of the United States when growing up Portugal and now the American she has become through the use of form and color.

The Spy had a chance to spend a few minutes with Elizabeth at the Davis Street a few months ago before a major art opening and Europe to get a better sense of what this vision means.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Elizabeth Casqueiro’s art please go here. In Chestertown, she is represented by Massoni Gallery


Point of View: Oysterman Scott Budden on Exelon’s Pending 46 Year Lease to Run Conowingo Dam


While Scott Budden and his company, Orchard Point Oyster Company, might be the face of a new generation of oystermen on the Chesapeake Bay, his concerns about the Conowingo Dam, its owner, the Exelon Corporation, and their pending approval for a 46 year old lease to operate it, has a very familiar ring to it. Just like other oystermen working in the north part of the Bay for many years, Scott believes the company needs to listen more and proactively coordinate with oyster producers when, and how much, sediment is released into the Bay from the Dam and the Susquehanna River.

In short, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission plans to renew Exelon’s operating lease for almost half a century this year. As part of that permitting, the energy corporation must obtain the approval of is required to obtain a Clean Water Act certification from the Maryland Department of the Environment for the continued operation of the facility and the state has encouraged public comments on this long-term arrangement until January 15.

And Scott has quite a few comments.

In his Spy interview last week, Scott talks about the negative impact of Exelon’s current practice of releasing the dam’s waters to generate power, regardless of the sediment impact on Bay’s oyster beds. He also talks about the need for more significant partnerships between Exelon and the aquaculture industry to ensure the minimum amount of damage to the Bay and its essential oyster industry.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For others interested in making a documented comment on the pending lease agreement, please use the following contact and address by January 15:

Elder Ghigiarelli, Jr.
Deputy Program Administrator
Wetlands and Waterways Program/Water Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 430
Baltimore, MD 21230


Grants in Action: The Ladies of Nia and Women & Girls Fund Prepare Young Girls for Real World


While the accomplishments of the BAAM program in Talbot County has become well known for its mentoring programs for young boys, it was comforting for the Spy to learn the other day that there was a Mid-Shore equivalent just for girls, thanks in part due to the sponsorship of the Women & Girls Fund.

Nine years ago, six young women took a “girls trip” to reunite with childhood friendships from Lockerman Middle School in Denton many years after they had graduated from college and had started professional careers. As Malica Dunnock, one of the ringleaders of the group recounted in her interview with Spy, every woman on that trip had an extraordinary sense of being blessed to find a way to higher education and all the promises that it brings to young people. And like many who have had good future like this, the ladies quickly moved on to talk about ways to help a new generation of girls have that same experience

That was when this special friendship circle formed of The Ladies of Nia, which borrows the African term for “purpose” in the organization’s title, which has been working with dozens of girls growing up in and around Denton to find a path forward to the same opportunities as the founders.

The Spy talked to both Malica and Alice Ryan, the founder of the Women & Girls Fund, about The Ladies of Nia, their young students, and their special partnership.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Women & Girls Fund or to help support its work please go here