The Upper West Side got lifted on 420 Weekend with the opening of Just A Little Higher at 157 West 72nd Street. As the neighborhood’s second state-licensed dispensary, the shop drew great consumer interest during the national cannabis holiday. But for Paul Pagan, the entire experience is really about family.

Just A Little Higher: A CAURD Licensee Collective

Pagan and his business partner Gregory Kornegay have established a network of nine Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licensees composed entirely of relatives and longtime friends who have all supported each other through the complicated road to opening their businesses. Battling the rigorous application process, the stress of the injunctions that kept the CAURD program down, and the various challenges that New York’s legal cannabis industry has faced, their collective has been a beacon of hope for all involved. And in the way of most families, these individual-owned operations will share some resemblances, many taking on the “Just A Little Higher” moniker that Pagan and Kornegay pioneered with their delivery-only location in Queens several months ago. (420 Bliss, a retailer in the group that’s based in the upstate city of Troy, seems to be an exception in naming.)

Just A Little Higher Upper West Side ahead of its opening day (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Just A Little Higher At 72nd Street: Cannabis On The Upper West Side

In the case of the 72nd Street location, the family’s first store in Manhattan, Just A Little Higher is owned by Kornegay’s son Tymel and Todd Holloway. Pagan expresses great admiration for the entities that make up the collective, emphasizing how the state’s legal cannabis industry is creating space for minority-owned, family-run businesses that would never have the same first-mover advantage in corporate America.

“We’re trying to give everyone a fair shot,” Pagan says of New York’s burgeoning cannabis sector. “We want everyone to be able to have the opportunity to be in the cannabis space, because it’s not easy to get into.”

Origins Of Just A Little Higher: A Little Booking Agency

The entrepreneur knows all about navigating tough industries. He and Kornegay are cultural veterans. Working together since 2009, they each have substantial experience in concert and events production and a passionate dedication to serving the community. They founded their company A Little Booking Agency in 2015, through which they have produced and managed nearly a decade of star-studded events, working with a laundry list of top artists including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Popsmoke and Kevin Hart, Mary J. Blige, and many more.

With music and cannabis culture being deeply intertwined, it was no surprise that the partners eventually developed an interest in the plant. In a New York of a different time, Pagan ended up with cannabis convictions on his record. But that helped him be alert to the CAURD program when it was initially announced in 2022, and then to rally the qualifying loved ones to apply, who make up the “Just A Little Higher” collective today.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Paul Pagan On Just A Little Higher Upper West Side And Family Values In New York's Cannabis Industry

Pagan spoke to Honeysuckle about what the new store on 72nd Street will mean for the Upper West Side, and why you have to have heart when working in cannabis. 

HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: Congratulations to Todd and Tymel on opening Just A Little Higher on 72nd Street! What excites you most about the store being on the Upper West Side?

PAUL PAGAN: They are opening a 2500-square foot establishment right on the corner of West 72nd and Amsterdam. Very beautiful area, rich in history. We look forward to being part of the community, to seeing our neighbors walk their dogs and come in. I don’t like to call them customers or consumers; they’re our family. We know that Ms. Johnson likes her edibles to help her sleep every Thursday, Friday and Saturday when she doesn't have her children, and so on. And we get to learn. 

The best thing about this business is you get to meet so many people in walks of life that are going through certain things and the consumer, unlike in other retail [environments], is coming in there to achieve a sense of relief. There's not any combativeness. People don’t come in here angry. They’re just looking for some type of relief or what they consider their medication to be able to help them, whether it’s anxiety, sleep, or just to mellow out and take away a little bit of stress. We look forward to bringing our energy, our culture to the Upper West Side.

The West 72nd Street store is going to be a boutique. It’s going to be niche and fun, all smiles. We’re dog-friendly. And we want you to come in and be happy.

It sounds like there will be a big focus on education at Just A Little Higher.

Yes, absolutely. [Education is] going to be very important, especially on the Upper West Side where everything is on-the-go. I want to make sure that we let people know what will help them and how different strains will help with [specific effects]. We’ll focus on ensuring that everyone knows what they’re consuming, how they’re consuming it, and what’s going to help them get through the day.

It’s also important for people to know that we’re dealing with nearly 2000 illegal dispensaries in New York City. This store is a safe, healthy environment. The cops aren't going to come raid you. We're not selling undocumented cannabis. When you’re here [at Just A Little Higher], we want you to feel safe and to understand that this is medication and wellness. There isn’t the taboo around marijuana that used to be. We really are in a good place for New York, and I appreciate New York giving us the opportunity.

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Will the dispensary be stocked with a lot of products from New York’s local brands?

Yes, we have good working relationships from [Just A Little Higher’s Queens delivery] location. We love WaaHoo, a Long Island-based company. Hudson Cannabis, Hepworth Farms, Aeterna, Florist Farms. Everyone does love national brands like Packwoods, Eureka and Heavy Hitters, but New Yorkers are New York strong. They come into these stores and ask, “Is this grown in the Catskills or the Adirondacks?” Or “I saw them and followed up on Instagram and now I can buy it here.” New Yorkers will always support New York brands before anything else.

Can you explain how the Just A Little Higher collective of licensees came to be?

This is one big family of license holders. Each person worked very hard to get where they are now… It’s real relationships and we all know each other’s story. When the state was kind enough to put the CAURD program in place, we realized that we can do this and power in numbers is always going to help. The more people that we had who would be available to qualify for the license, based on the businesses they’ve done on their own, as well as the qualifications of convictions of a [cannabis-related] crime that fit under CAURD, would help each other. We sat together throughout the application process… and as the state started to give out temporary provisional licenses, we started to work together to make sure we all had the education and the resources needed to move forward. 

Greg, our CFO Tony Kelly, and I sat with these business owners, and the building owners [where they wanted to have locations], to give extended periods of time to get [everything ready for them to be licensed and operational]. We understood that cannabis was going to be a real thing in New York. We’re here to supply relief. We’re here to help people. We are here to bring good vibes and energy to every market that we go into.

It’s been a long road for many CAURD licensees. What was your experience through the process?

I’m a license holder of Just A Little Higher in Queens, which is a delivery-only location. We had the opportunity to get that license in December; we took it. With all the injunctions and lawsuits [against the Office of Cannabis Management] going back and forth, we wanted to make sure we had one. [Our collective’s] locations will all be named Just A Little Higher in specific regions; one will open soon in Murray Hill. 

I want to be very clear: We have nothing but the utmost support and admiration for [the OCM], and what that organization is doing for us. There are hurdles here as in any new market. There are going to be miscues and growing pains. But just like [other CAURD applicants], we left everything when we had our provisional license. And you’ve got to have a lease - you’ve got to have a building before they license you fully. You have to have electricity, display cases, this and that. There are certain things where you have to come out of pocket. Fortunately we had the ability and the resources to withstand that, but a lot of other people did not. My heart goes out to them, because we collectively feel that as well.

What else should we know about Just A Little Higher at 72nd Street, or about any programming going forward?

Express Pickup is an awesome thing that will be available at all of our locations going forward. We know time is valuable, especially in busy areas like the Upper West Side… With the opening of the 72nd Street store, we [plan to have] special guests coming there. We’ve already tapped into some successful hip hop artists who have helped us with activations [at 420 Bliss] upstate. They’re relationships that we have built over years of working with them, and we’ll have plenty of that over the lifespan of our locations. 

We have always been for the community. A Little Booking Agency has given back to the community for many years through Greg. We’ve organized toy drives, fire truck [fundraisers], and we do it quietly. When you do something for the community, you do it out of the goodness of your heart. We’re going to continue to do that and use cannabis to share it all as well.

Just A Little Higher Upper West Side is located at 157 West 72nd Street in New York City. For more information, visit or follow @jalh.upperwestside on Instagram. 

(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture
(C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture


Written By:

Jaime Lubin is Honeysuckle's Editor-At-Large. Her writing has appeared in HuffPost, Observer, Billboard and more. Also an actress and singer, she can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

@jaimelubin (IG)

@jaimelubin (Twitter)


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Featured image: Just A Little Higher Upper West Side owners Tymel Kornegay and Todd Holloway (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture