Chief Agricultural Officer
Chief Sales Officer
Lead Policy Analyst
Joe Vitale is currently earning his bachelor’s degree in History and German Studies from Binghamton, where his academic work has led to various awards, research positions, and publications in scholarly journals. Combining his vast research experience with a fine eye for details, Joe delivers in-depth regulatory analysis and compliance research at CSG.
Steve VanDeWalle is a Cannabis entrepreneur and activist from Rochester, NY. He earned his B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester, and his MBA from the William G. Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester. He is the Founder and CEO of Tiva Naturals, a lifestyle-wellness brand specializing in the formulation, manufacturing, and selling of craft Cannabis products. He is a founding member and former Deputy Director of Roc NORML — the Rochester Chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Steve is the executive producer and host of #StevesCannabisShow, an educational podcast where political, industry, and academic experts come together to discuss the exciting and rapidly evolving Cannabis industry. Steve has also obtained his Green Flower certification in Extraction. To learn more about Steve, visit his website: www.stevevandewalle.com
Business Development Manager
Viraj Mehta is an experienced project manager, specializing in the legal cannabis sector. He is the President & Founder of Green Wolverine’s Binghamton Chapter, the first and largest national student professional organization, focused on opportunities for success in legal cannabis or related fields. In the summer of 2019, he assisted in the management of a 30-acre hemp cultivation project in North Carolina from seed to sale. Viraj has led & consulted on various projects in the sector, leveraging a combination of creative, analytical, and leadership skills. He is excited to join CSG in helping to create a vibrant cannabis industry in New York State.
Sarah graduated with a Bachelors in Political Science from SUNY Cortland, and is currently pursuing dual Masters in Public Administration and Student Affairs Administration, as well as a Certification in Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention at Binghamton University. She has held prominent leadership positions studying policy both at the New York State and international levels, with the Onondaga District Attorney’s Office and London Metropolitan University respectively. Sarah’s studies allow her to identify political contexts that limit access to socioeconomic, health, and educational opportunities. Using this skill set, Sarah conducts research for CSG on how the adult-use marijuana industry can be cultivated to benefit minority communities most harmed by the War on Drugs. Her effective policy analysis skills align with CSG’s mission to create pathways for an equitable, quality marijuana industry
David is a highly driven and creative individual currently finishing off his Bachelor’s Degree at SUNY Binghamton and has been accepted into Binghamton’s Fast-Track MBA program. David also serves at the Vice-President of Green Wolverine (Binghamton), the first and largest national student organization devoted to professional opportunities within the legal cannabis sector. Previously, David worked as a Marketing Intern at the re-established Goto.com, Inc. specializing in search engine optimization. He is currently serving on the advisory board for Wheel It Forward, a non-for profit durable medical equipment lending library serving Fairfield County Connecticut. Above all else, David is excited to utilize his knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to a bright and successful future at CSG.
It starts with hemp wine in 1997.
Jim Castetter founded the first hemp infused wine, Hemp Wine America, in 1997. The company enjoyed break-out success until the government moved to shut him down due to lack of understanding of non-psychoactive hemp products.
In 2015, Kaelan Castetter, Jim’s son, began exploring the legality of bringing hemp wine back to market. Two years later, after securing the first wine label approval in NYS Liquor Authority history, Sovereign Vines was launched as America’s Only Hemp Infused Wine.
In 2015, Kaelan Castetter began exploring the legality of bringing hemp wine back to market. Two years later, Sovereign Vines was launched as America’s Only Hemp Infused Wine.
New York strives to become a National Leader.
In 2015, Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D-123) recognized the potential of hemp and moved to create the Hemp Pilot Program. As the first hemp company in Lupardo’s district, Kaelan and Jim were able to work closely with her and help to cultivate the vision of the Southern Tier becoming a global hub for hemp.
Believing that New York could be the epicenter for this budding industry Kaelan also developed relationships with Governor Cuomo’s administration, important lawmakers, and regulators.
New York started to become a power player in hemp and discussions of legalizing cannabis for adult use began attracting global attention.
The hunt for the perfect strain.
In 2017, growers began to cultivate hemp in New York for the first time in decade. Kaelan and Jim Castetter set out to grow hemp that expressed terpene profiles to compliment their wine. Aldous Loyd, a master cannabis breeder, joined the team. Castetter Sustainability Group was formed to forge a formidable path in the nascent and unpredictable hemp industry.
A wild-west industry in silos.
The three quickly realized that the hemp industry was truly the wild west.
The market was rife with fraud and abuse. Ingredients and products were being brokered at outrageous prices while sometimes never actually arriving, genetics were grossly misrepresented, and companies with little practical experience were promising pipe dreams.
On top of this, there was absent any consistent regulatory framework. States were operating under widely varying pilot research programs, federal agencies implemented selective enforcement, and banking was restricted.
Observing all of this, CSG formed their mission: to lead the charge for a robust, sustainable, and diverse cannabis industry in the Empire State.
We began by helping farmers.
The team began partnering with local farmers during the 2018 growing season to share our knowledge of the plant, supply chain, regulations, and the mammoth task of drying.
We began on six small farms spread across the state; sourcing the seed, developing nutrient plans troubleshooting pest and weed management, setting up and executing on a hang drying system in an old warehouse.
In 2019 we scaled up to 250k plants across 15 farms. At end of the season we converted a former K-Mart into an unriveled drying facility. Here we brought 75 truckloads from across the state with a 60 person staff working two shifts daily for 37 days straight. This was the difficult but rewarding task the CSG team had ever endured.
Over those two seasons we experienced many successes and failures… our ability to adapt and learn has been crucial.