Kevin Sabet

Kevin Abraham Sabet (born February 20, 1979) is a former three-time White House Office of National Drug Control Policy advisor, having been the only person appointed to that office by both a Republican (Administration of George W. Bush) and Democrat (Obama Administration and Clinton Administration).[1] He is also an assistant professor adjunct at Yale University Medical School,[2] a fellow at Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies,[3] and a columnist at Newsweek.[4]

Kevin A. Sabet
Kevin Sabet, Co-Founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.png
Kevin Sabet, speaking at the New Yorker Magazine Festival, 2014
Known forA "Third Way" in Drug Policy,

A "Smart approach to marijuana policy"

  • "Big Marijuana"
  • "Preventing Another Big Tobacco"
  • "Stopping Big Tobacco 2.0"
AwardsMarshall Scholarship, Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention, John P. McGovern Award
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Oxford University
Doctoral advisorGeorge Smith
Other academic advisorsBruce Cain
William "Sandy" Muir
InfluencesDavid F. Musto
Robert L. DuPont
Academic work
Disciplinedrug policy, public policy, journalism
InstitutionsThe White House, ONDCP, Yale University, University of Florida, SAM

With Patrick J. Kennedy, Sabet co-founded Smart Approaches to Marijuana in Denver in January 2013.[5]

Sabet is the author of numerous articles and monographs including the book Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, now in its second edition,[6] and his newest book, Smokescreen, will be distributed by Simon & Schuster.[7]

Sabet is the recipient of the Nils Bejerot Award given in conjunction with Queen Silvia of Sweden[8] and was one of four Americans (along with Jonathan Caulkins, Bertha Madras, and Robert DuPont) invited to advise Pope Francis by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss marijuana and other drug policy.[9][10] He spoke in front of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and others at the Allen and Company Sun Valley Investor's Conference in 2018.[11]

Upon founding SAM, Salon called Sabet "the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement"[12] and NBC News called him a "prodigy of drug politics".[13]

Education and careerEdit

Sabet is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Oxford University,[14] where he received his Doctorate in social policy as a Marshall Scholar. He is an opponent of drug legalization and has spoken on behalf of the Obama Administration on the subject.[15] After leaving ONDCP after 2.5 years, he became a consultant and professor. Rolling Stone called him one of marijuana legalization's biggest enemies.[16]

Sabet is the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).[17] He is a regular contributor to TV and print media[18] and a blogger for the Huffington Post.[19]

Drug policy advocacyEdit

Sabet began his activism as a teenager, campaigning against the abolition of after-school programs sought by the libertarian-leaning Orange County school board.[20] During his freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley, Sabet started Citizens for a Drug-Free Berkeley and worked to educate his peers on the "wave of destruction" that comes with club drugs, including MDMA.[21] He has testified for the US Congress, Canadian Parliament, UK Parliament, and UN bodies multiple times.[22][23][24][25][26] He provided written testimony to the U.S. Senate on cannabidiol.[27]

Sabet has written on the need for prevention, treatment, and enforcement to guide drug policy, although he has also argued for abolishing severe sentencing guidelines, like mandatory minimum laws.[28] His articles have been published in newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.[29] He has argued for removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana use, has opposed legalization[30] while supporting continued civil penalties for use, along with mandated treatment. He supports charges for manufacturing or selling large amounts of cannabis.[31]

Through the work of SAM, Sabet has been an active voice in successful campaigns to stop marijuana legalization initiatives in Ohio (2015),[32][33][34][35][36][37][38] and legislative initiatives in New Jersey,[39] New York, Connecticut, and other states. In New Jersey, Sabet and SAM have partnered with senators, including Senator Ronald Rice, pastors, community organizers, and other public health and safety advocates to resist Governor Phil Murphy's push to commercialize marijuana in the state.[40][41][42]

In the 2018 legislative sessions, Sabet and SAM have been active with coalitions in successful efforts to defeat marijuana legalization and commercialization bills in Illinois,[43][44] New Hampshire,[35][45][46][47] and Vermont.[48] While Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2013 and allowed for personal use and "home-grow" in 2018,[49] Sabet and SAM have worked with partners to defeat outright commercialization such as seen in Colorado, California, and Washington.[48] In North Dakota, Sabet and SAM allies campaigned against a ballot measure to legalize cannabis that was defeated.[50][51][52]

Prior to SAM's founding, Sabet wrote op-eds and spoke across the United States.[53] Some say Sabet is arguably the most influential person in the movement against cannabis legalization in the United States.[54]

In September 2016, Sabet appeared at a forum at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where he stated he had "props" of two bags of candy meant to emulate THC-infused candy. After the forum concluded, Sabet left both bags of candy unattended, which were subsequently stolen by a pro-legalization activist. [55]

Sabet has also organized coalition letters to various Administrations regarding the central role of Office of National Drug Control Policy in policy making, and produced a video for Biden transition advisors.[56]

Books and writingsEdit

His latest book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn't Want You to Know, will be out April 20, 2021.[7] Through interviews with former Colorado marijuana regulators, marijuana dispensary employees, parents who lost kids to marijuana-related illnesses, and by reflecting on his time in the Obama Administration, the book is the first serious write up about life after marijuana legalization in the U.S. from an insider.

His first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, now in its second edition.[57] Ryan Grim of the liberal The Intercept noted, "For backers of legalization, Sabet is dangerous, because he can't be easily dismissed as a reefer-madness-style propagandist. The marijuana reform community should play close attention to his arguments, and the prohibitionists, if they have any plans to reverse the tide, should do the same."[58] Commentator David Frum wrote, "Compassionate and knowledgeable, Kevin Sabet is the most important new voice in the American drug policy debate. Policymakers, parents, and concerned citizens should heed his meticulously factual case against marijuana legalization."[59] Sabet also co-edited Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana, published by Oxford.[60]


  1. ^ "Why this former U.S. drug adviser thinks legal Canadian weed is 'the next big tobacco' | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  2. ^ "Directories - Yale University". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "Kevin Sabet - Institution for Social and Policy Studies". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "Kevin Sabet". Newsweek. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Dobuzinskis, Alex. "U.S. foes of legal pot focus on risks to the brain". U.S. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Kevin Sabet — Reefer Sanity by Kevin Sabet". Archived from the original on August 27, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Smokescreen. April 20, 2021. ISBN 978-1-948677-87-5.
  8. ^ "Kevin Sabet is the winner of the 3rd Nils Bejerot Award | World Federation Against Drugs". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Smart Approaches to Marijuana- SAM". Smart Approaches to Marijuana. November 23, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "Narcotics: Problems and Solutions of this Global Issue". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  11. ^ Lang, Brent (June 1, 2018). "Sun Valley 2018 Guest List Includes Shari Redstone, Leslie Moonves, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  12. ^ "Meet the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement". Salon. February 13, 2013. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  13. ^ "Treatment or Jail: Patrick Kennedy Wages Fierce Anti-Pot Crusade". NBC News. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "Faculty » Department of Psychiatry » College of Medicine » University of Florida". Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  15. ^ MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau (September 24, 2010). "Obama drug-policy adviser says the administration opposes marijuana legalization and isn't big on medical marijuana". Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  16. ^ "Legalization's Biggest Enemies | Politics News". Rolling Stone. January 17, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  17. ^ "Our Fellows » Drug Policy Institute » College of Medicine » University of Florida". May 30, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "Media". Kevin Sabet. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  19. ^ "Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D". Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  20. ^ "Orange Trustees Hear Appeals to Reinstate Counseling Programs". Los Angeles Times. October 12, 1996. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  21. ^ "Public Health Officials Warn Against 'Club Drugs'". WebMD. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  22. ^ "Health Committee Considers Bill C-45 - CPAC". CPAC. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  23. ^ Committee on Government Reform (June 16, 1999). PROS AND CONS OF DRUG LEGALIZATION, DECRIMINALIZATION, AND HARM REDUCTION. Government Publishing Office.
  24. ^ "Agenda Item 5. Implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem UNGASS 2016 – CND Blog". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  25. ^ "Committee Report No. 6 - HESA (41-2) - House of Commons of Canada". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  26. ^ Commons, The Committee Office, House of. "House of Commons — Home Affairs Committee — Drugs: Breaking the Cycle: Written evidence submitted by Kevin A Sabet, DPhil (Oxon) (DP148)". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  27. ^ Sabet, Kevin. "Written Testimony "Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits"" (PDF). US Senate Judiciary Committee.
  28. ^ "Kevin A. Sabet — A Third Way On Drug Laws". December 4, 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  29. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (January 1, 2012). "Drug Policy Needs Centrists". The New York Times.
  30. ^ "CNN Marijuana Legalization Debate: Ethan Nadelmann vs. Kevin Sabet". Youtube. November 12, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  31. ^ "Smart Approached to Marijuana — Criminal Justice Reform". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Hesse, Josiah M. "The Wrong Way to Legalize Marijuana?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Homan, Timothy R. (July 10, 2018). "Marijuana politics evolving in red states". TheHill. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  36. ^
  37. ^ McGreevy, Patrick. "Kennedy group puts $2 million into fight against pot-legalization measures". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  38. ^
  39. ^ "New Jersey state senator fears 'sex toy oils with marijuana' after pot is legal". Washington Examiner. July 20, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  40. ^ K, Susan (February 16, 2018). "Legal marijuana foes offer a compromise: Decriminalize it". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  41. ^ "Decriminalization bill faces tough road, Sen. Rice keeps up the pressure - Video". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  42. ^ "Who We Are". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  43. ^ Reporter, Savannah Eadens, Metro. "Decriminalization may be road to legalization in Illinois". Columbia Chronicle. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  44. ^ "Legalizing marijuana is a 'next year project' for Illinois". WJBC AM 1230. June 23, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  45. ^
  46. ^ admin (March 20, 2017). "Smart Approaches to Marijuana- SAM". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  48. ^ a b Weaver, Dustin (June 22, 2017). "Bid to legalize marijuana in Vermont goes up in smoke". TheHill. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  49. ^ Ring, Wilson (January 10, 2018). "Vermont poised to enact legal pot through Legislature". AP NEWS. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Hoffman, Megan. "Group forms to fight against legalizing marijuana". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  52. ^ "Cannabis proponents claim big wins in Michigan, Missouri, the House". NBC News. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  53. ^
  54. ^ Roberts, Michael (August 14, 2017). "Meet Kevin Sabet, USA's Most Influential Critic of Marijuana Legalization". Westword. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  55. ^ "How One Pro-Pot Activist Punked an Anti-Pot Crusader by Stealing His Gummy Bears". October 16, 2016.
  56. ^ "History of the ONDCP - YouTube". Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  57. ^ Reefer Sanity : Seven Great Myths About Marijuana. OCLC 933438351.
  58. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (2013). Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana. ISBN 978-0825306983.
  59. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (2013). Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana. ISBN 978-0825306983.
  60. ^ "Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana". Oxford University Press. July 2, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.

External linksEdit