Innovation has always been something that excites. In the modern age, we have the opportunity to try pairings never seen before. A great example: hemp-infused wine! Sovereign Vines, based in Johnson City, is the first and only winery producing hemp-infused wines. Unfortunately, you might not be able to grab a taste just yet.

“Sad to say that our journey with Sovereign Vines is coming to end,” owner Kaelan Castetter posted on his Facebook page.

Kaelan and his father, Jim, started Sovereign Vines in 2017. It followed a previous hemp-wine business that had opened in 1997 but was shut down by federal regulators in 1999. The company re-launched in 2017 as the federal government was de-regulating hemp.

For Sovereign Vines, this pitfall of federal regulation is something they have encountered before and one of the many obstacles on the path to acceptance. Whereas large corporations have been poised to enact a monopoly on the growing industry of hemp and cannabis products, smaller companies are prepared to push back in ways that can truly help the environment, the economy, and society in general.

Although New York State has been in turmoil concerning the regulation of CBD, the state distributed the only wine approval in liquor authority history to Sovereign Vines three years ago. Last year, the Alcohol and Tobacco and Tax Bureau audited them and with the support of New York state, they were able to overcome it. But this year, the federal government interceded. While New York has approved laws establishing some CBD guidelines, CBD has not been approved as an additive in any food or beverage products by the FDA.

“The federal government has made it impossible to carry on and because of this, we have made the difficult decision to close the business,” says Castetter. “We will be back when we can engage in interstate commerce and truly succeed in bringing hemp-infused wine to the world!”

Federal regulations concerning hemp products have limited the company from presenting this alluring beverage to an audience back in 1997, and the same history is being repeated now in 2020. With considerable progress in the research of cannabis-related products, it is safe to say that hemp has no potential for abuse.

While the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 changed the federal laws surrounding the production and marketing of hemp, it did not remove the explicit authority of the FDA to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. Overall, federal oversight has prevented medical products containing hemp, as well as recreational products such as hemp-infused wine, from ever reaching outstretched palms of consumers.

The Castetters started by using hemp sourced from Colorado, but later used their sister company, Castetter Sustainability Group (CSG), to grow and process hemp products. The closing of Sovereign Vines does not affect CSG Hemp, which remains open.

“CSG is doing well and we have some exciting things to announce in the coming months,” Castetter said. “We’ll revisit hemp wine when the time is right and regs are open more.”