New Johnstown shop caters to budding business of home marijuana cultivation

Karl Lakata, owner of Uncle Bud's Grow Shop, stands with bags of natural fertilizer and soil in the new Johnstown shop Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Karl Lakata, owner of Uncle Bud's Grow Shop, stands with bags of natural fertilizer and soil in the new Johnstown shop Thursday, May 19, 2022.

JOHNSTOWN There really is an Uncle Bud, but he’s not Karl Lakata’s uncle and he’s not in the same line of business.

Lakata recently opened a horticulture shop on North Market Street and borrowed the nickname of the guy who would rent out a hay wagon for a music festival Lakata’s friend organized.

“Bud” is also a nickname for marijuana, and that’s what Lakata expects a lot of customers to be interested in as they visit Uncle Bud’s Grow Shop. 

Growing your own marijuana at home will soon be a legal option in New York, and he expects a large demand for it.

“I don’t think the market would be there without the new opportunity in New York state,” Lakata said. “It’s going to change the landscape of the state.”

The lifelong Johnstown resident holds a business degree from SUNY Oswego and is pursuing an MBA through SUNY Empire State College. He’s a recreational marijuana user, but it doesn’t define him or his new shop — he has other interests as well, and the equipment and supplies at Uncle Bud’s are also useful for growing things other than marijuana.

“The shop isn’t pigeonholed into only growing cannabis,” Lakata said. “I do a lot of outdoor gardening myself in the summer.”

New York’s marijuana reforms include a provision that will allow an adult to grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants, or up to six and six per household. However, the rules are not finalized and home cultivation is not legal yet in New York.

For that reason, Uncle Bud’s is not selling seeds yet.

“Others are pushing the envelope,” Lakata said, but “there’s still a lot of gray areas. We’re going to wait and do things by the book.”

After the initial investment in equipment and supplies, cultivating marijuana at home will be much less expensive than stopping at the local dispensary but much more labor-intensive, Lakata said. The one thing home cultivation can do is provide the specific strain of marijuana a dispensary might not have in stock.

“It’s the perfect way to get exactly what you want out of this new industry,” he said. “There’s only so many strains the dispensary will have at once, because it does have a shelf life.”

He added: “The best part to me about growing is you can source seed and grow exactly what you want.”

Cultivation is not hard.

“Anybody can grow a cannabis plant — you can put it in the ground and it will grow,” Lakata said.

The trick comes in maximizing the harvest, he said, explaining that plants grown under optimal conditions will produce much larger flowers than casually grown plants. That’s the value of the lights, nutrients and soils that Uncle Bud’s stocks. 

“It all depends how much you want to get into it. It’s a learning curve, too,” Lakata said.

Someone who is self-medicating heavily with marijuana might find the six-plant limit too small, Lakata said, but six carefully tended plants would yield more than enough for the average recreational user.

He’s optimistic that with marijuana being legalized in New York, and with stores like his going mainstream, some of the stoner stereotypes around recreational marijuana use will fade.

“Those types of stigmas will be a thing of the past fairly soon,” he predicted.

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