Though Joseph Abramov, founder of Urban Leaf, had a difficult road to opening his dispensary, he says that every element of the experience as a CAURD licensee has helped him become even more focused on serving as an asset to his community. Today, his store sits at one of the most choice positions in New York City. Located on 977 Second Avenue at 52nd Street in Manhattan, Urban Leaf represents the burgeoning dreams of a cannabis entrepreneur who is thrilled to make his business a hub for consumers from all walks of life.

What Makes Urban Leaf A Neighborhood Hub For New Yorkers?

“We chose this neighborhood specifically,” he says of Midtown East. “People here aren’t too interested in going to [far away] neighborhoods for their shopping. They’ve been waiting for a store like Urban Leaf… We’re also focused on the commuters. A lot of them go into the City for work through Grand Central Station or the Roosevelt Island Tram, just a few blocks away.”

(C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @jaimelubin
(C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @jaimelubin

Urban Leaf's Commitment To Quality Cannabis Products

A protective father of three and perennial host, Abramov is traditionally only satisfied when he’s able to help others get what they need. With the store’s grand opening on April 18th, just before this year’s 420 holiday, he was finally able to expand that ethos to aiding New Yorkers in their search for the best cannabis products.

“As far as Urban Leaf goes, we’re being very, very selective with the kind of products we bring into the store,” the entrepreneur notes. “Now that cannabis is growing throughout New York, there are thousands of products out there. We’re not going to display every product; we want to select the best of the best and focus on that.”

Some of his favorites are the pre-rolls from Hudson Cannabis, which the owner admires for their premium quality and flavor, as well as being made with clean, regenerative agricultural practices. He adds that he also seeks out brands that offer high-caliber items at the most affordable prices.

[I’m ensuring that] customers coming here are getting the most bang for their buck. I don’t want my customers ever getting ripped off.”

Urban Leaf founder Joseph Abramov with Honeysuckle's 420 2024 edition on the store's opening day (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @jaimelubin

Urban Leaf Founder Joseph Abramov's Journey With Cannabis

Visitors to the dispensary can sense the passion and acuity that brim underneath Abramov’s big-bear exterior gruffness, which he says he honed during years of being in legacy cannabis and then in real estate. Explaining that he’s been obsessed with cannabis since he was a teenager, the advocate recalls his fascination with the plant’s versatility, particularly as he learned more about its historical significance across different eras and social communities. The “blend of cultural depth,” as he puts it, truly lit a fire within.

The spark of curiosity led Abramov, at just 19, to launch a delivery service in Queens and get involved in a New York cannabis scene that was much more rough-and-tumble than today. At one point during the height of the delivery business’s operation, he decided to explore California cultivation as well, and sent his longtime friend Markel Bababekov to investigate.

“That’s how [Markel] met his wife,” Abramov laughs. “I flew him out there to look at West Coast farming and grows. Three weeks later, he says, ‘I think I’m going to stay here.’ He meets his wife, they get married, have two kids. Before we know it, he’s out there ten years.”

But the childhood companions remained close, thankfully for them and for New York cannabis. Even though Abramov closed his delivery service after what he describes as multiple instances of getting into trouble with the law, choosing to build a successful real estate business, his love for the plant endured. He and Bababekov continued monitoring the evolution of the legal industry across the country, both nurturing the sprout of an idea to return someday when the timing was right. Eventually, that time would come for both of them: Bababekov, who moved back to New York with his family several years ago, opened his dispensary The Herbal Care at 1412 Lexington Avenue on 92nd Street this February. 

Promo image of Urban Leaf before the final buildout (C) Urban Leaf
Abramov and his family celebrate Urban Leaf's grand opening with a ribbon-cutting (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @jaimelubin

Urban Leaf Provides Cannabis For The People

For Abramov, entering the legal cannabis space is a blessing. While he does half-jokingly characterize the licensing process as “the Hunger Games - very cutthroat,” he never loses sight of the most important rule. If you’re in cannabis, you’re in it for the people.

“We used to swallow joints,” he states. “Now the government’s involved with everything. [It’s humbling] to be involved with something that’s transitioned out of so much taboo. [I’m] coming into this to be part of something good, to cater to the community.”

He hopes that with expanded access to cannabis education, increasing numbers of New Yorkers will advocate for financial services to become more available to cannabis businesses. Then all the industry stakeholders could really help each other thrive. 

On Urban Leaf’s opening day, when Abramov’s group of relatives huddled together outside the store, his wife beaming proudly as she lifted their three-month-old baby high to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony, it was clear that this plant lover and proud papa is living for a cause far greater than himself. As he observed succinctly, “We’re all doing this for our families and the future.”

Urban Leaf is located at 977 Second Avenue in New York City. For more information, visit


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: Joseph Abramov, founder of Urban Leaf (C) Urban Leaf