TABERNASH — Agritourism is new a way to experience Colorado’s unique heritage, and now a Grand County group is trying to combine it with another of the state’s fascinations – legalized marijuana.
“We have fabulous marijuana at this altitude,” said Susan Kuglitsch, of Tabernash, a proponent of cannabis agritourism in Grand County. “That secret will get out quick. We’d like to (promote enjoying) it responsibly in a nice family setting.”
Kuglitsch has a vision to make Colorado’s marijuana known beyond its pot shops. She’s working to form a cannabis cooperative, or co-op, that obtains licenses to grow, process and sell both marijuana and hemp products. That budding, self-sustaining business model could also be used to draw tourists to Grand County through cannabis-based agritourism.
“Agritourism, cooperation among growers, community involvement and economic development are attainable goals,” she said.
Kuglitsch said she has around 10 members from across the county so far, but she hopes to grow that number to 100 by the end of the summer. Once she secures enough founding members, Kuglitsch said the co-op will begin working on a for-profit business plan.
She expects much of that profit to come from cannabis tourists to the county. Kuglitsch pointed out that many people already visit the state because of its legalized marijuana, pointing to the recent 4/20 celebrations as an example.
“Many people travel to Colorado to openly use cannabis and to explore the healthy and rugged lifestyle,” Kuglitsch said. “We want to show (cannabis) is a productive aspect of our economy, beyond just pot shops.”
According to the Colorado Tourism Office, one of its major initiatives is to “raise awareness and appreciation for Colorado’s heritage tourism assets.” It partnered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 2012 to help promote the state’s agricultural roots through “agritourism,” which includes public relations campaigns, research and advertising. Agritourism initiatives have helped connect visitors to the state’s many farms, ranches, wine-makers, Christmas tree sellers and farmers markets.
Because Amendment 64 and marijuana legalization were such landmark events for Colorado, Kuglitsch said cannabis cultivation represents an important part of the state’s cultural heritage as well. It’s not a stretch in her mind to bring it under the Colorado agritourism effort.
“I think we have to be realistic and say cannabis is now part of our economy and part of our culture,” she said. “Hopefully we can use it to bring an element of hemp, co-op farming and industry to our county to generate jobs and profit for farmers.”
The Colorado Department of Agriculture regulates the industrial hemp program, but that’s about as close as its come to associating with any form of cannabis so far. Marijuana-based agritourism has yet to be a seriously floated concept.
“I can’t say that I’ve heard of this before, as it relates to marijuana,” said the department’s Deputy Commissioner, Ron Carleton. “I’m not terribly surprised. There seems to be a lot of new things going on now that Amendment 64 is being implemented.”
Before the Department of Agriculture or Office of Tourism will tango with a cannabis-based tourism industry, it’s likely Kuglitsch’s co-op with have to go through the state’s Department of Revenue first. That department is charged with regulating retail marijuana operations.
“That would be the starting point, quite frankly,” Carleton said. “(We’d) refer them to revenue first and see where it goes from there.”
County residents looking to get involved in Kuglitsch’s cannabis co-op can contact her through her business and tourism promotion website, www.OnAPM.com.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.