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, speaking at the New Yorker Magazine Festival, 2014
Known for
  • Founding Smart Approaches to Marijuana
  • Opposing marijuana legalization
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 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, which has emerged as the leading opponent of marijuana legalization in the United States.[5] In 2023, he and Kennedy founded the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions, a think/action tank to tackle the addiction crisis. The US launch took place at the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Global Initiative and the University Club of New York, along with officials from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. A global launch at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs will take place in 2024.

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, is distributed by Simon & Schuster.[7] He announced on Twitter his new book on all drug policy will be published on Polity, likely in 2024.[8]

Sabet is the recipient of the Nils Bejerot Award given in conjunction with Queen Silvia of Sweden[9] 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.[10][11] 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 and is a regular attendee; he was seen at Sun Valley in one of his first public appearances since 2020 with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in 2021.[12][13][14]

Upon founding SAM, Salon called Sabet "the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement"[15] and NBC News called him a "prodigy of drug politics".[16]

Education and career edit

Sabet is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Oxford University,[17] 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.[18] After leaving ONDCP after 2.5 years, he became a consultant and professor. Rolling Stone called him one of marijuana legalization's biggest enemies.[19]

Sabet is the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).[20] He is a regular contributor to TV and print media[21] and a blogger for the Huffington Post.[22]

Drug policy advocacy edit

Sabet began his activism as a teenager, campaigning against the abolition of after-school programs sought by the libertarian-leaning Orange County school board.[23] 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.[24] He has testified for the US Congress, Canadian Parliament, UK Parliament, and UN bodies multiple times.[25][26][27][28][29] He has been an invited witness at the U.S. Senate on marijuana issues generally, and cannabidiol.[30]

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.[31] His articles have been published in newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.[32] He has argued for removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana use, has opposed legalization[33] while supporting continued civil penalties for use, along with mandated treatment. He supports charges for manufacturing or selling large amounts of cannabis.[34]

Through the work of SAM, Sabet has been an active voice in successful campaigns to stop marijuana legalization initiatives in Ohio (2015),[35][36][37][38][39][40][41] and legislative initiatives in New Jersey,[42] 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. This resistance was ultimately unsuccessful after Question 1 was approved by voters in November 2020 and enacted the following February.[43][44][45]

In the 2018 legislative sessions, Sabet and SAM were active with coalitions in successful efforts to defeat marijuana legalization and commercialization bills in Illinois,[46][47] New Hampshire,[38][48][49][50] and Vermont.[51] While Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2013 and allowed for personal use and "home-grow" in 2018,[52] Sabet and SAM have worked with partners to defeat outright commercialization such as seen in Colorado, California, and Washington (Vermont later legalized commercial marijuana sales in October 2020 despite SAM's opposition).[51] In North Dakota, Sabet and SAM allies campaigned against a ballot measure to legalize cannabis that was defeated.[53][54][55]

Prior to SAM's founding, Sabet wrote op-eds and spoke across the United States.[56] Some say Sabet is arguably the most influential person in the movement against cannabis legalization in the United States.[57]

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.[58]

SAM's opposition to marijuana legalization has had mixed success since the 2020 elections, with four marijuana legalization measures being approved in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota; the following year, Virginia, New Mexico and New York moved forward with legalization via the legislative process. However, legalization did not advance during the regular session in the states of North Dakota, Hawaii, and Maryland.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana also helped support efforts to roll back industry influence in Colorado, tightening current medical and recreational laws.[59]

Books and writings edit

His latest book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn't Want You to Know, was released April 20, 2021.[7] According to its description on Amazon, it contains "interviews with industry insiders who reveal the hidden dangers of a product they had once worshipped" and "tragic stories of those who have suffered and died as a result of marijuana use, and in many cases, as a result of its mischaracterization." Sabet claims that the marijuana industry is putting profits over public health and endangering the American people with dangerously potent products.[60]

His first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, is now in its second edition.[6] Ryan Grim of 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."[6] Commentator and marijuana legalization opponent 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."[6] In contrast, Phillip Smith of Stop the Drug War harshly criticized Sabet's claims and his "willingness to use the coercive power of the state to make us conform to his vision of the public health."[61]

Sabet also co-edited Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana, published by Oxford, which was highlighted by Jane Brody in The New York Times.[62][63]

References edit

  1. ^ Butler, Colin. "Why this former U.S. drug adviser thinks legal Canadian weed is 'the next big tobacco'". CBC News. 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". Reuters. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "Kevin Sabet — Reefer Sanity by Kevin Sabet". Archived from the original on August 27, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Sabet, Kevin A. (April 20, 2021). Smokescreen. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-948677-87-5.
  8. ^ "". Twitter. Retrieved February 8, 2023. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Kevin Sabet is the winner of the 3rd Nils Bejerot Award". World Federation Against Drugs. Archived from the original on June 1, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "Smart Approaches to Marijuana- SAM". Smart Approaches to Marijuana. November 23, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  11. ^ "Narcotics: Problems and Solutions of this Global Issue". Archived from the original on May 17, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Lang, Brent (June 7, 2021). "Sun Valley Guest List Includes David Zaslav, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Diane Sawyer (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  14. ^ "CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg walks with COO of Facebook Sheryl..." Getty Images. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  15. ^ Seitz-Wald, Alex (February 13, 2013). "Meet the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement". Salon. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  16. ^ "Treatment or Jail: Patrick Kennedy Wages Fierce Anti-Pot Crusade". NBC News. February 17, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "Faculty » Department of Psychiatry » College of Medicine » University of Florida". Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Gwynne, Kristen (January 17, 2013). "Legalization's Biggest Enemies | Politics News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  20. ^ "Our Fellows". University of Florida. May 30, 2014. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  21. ^ "Media". Kevin Sabet. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  22. ^ "Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D". Huff Post. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  23. ^ Wright, Lesley (October 12, 1996). "Orange Trustees Hear Appeals to Reinstate Counseling Programs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  24. ^ Levine, Jeff (December 2, 1999). "Public Health Officials Warn Against 'Club Drugs'". WebMD. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  25. ^ "Health Committee Considers Bill C-45 - CPAC". CPAC. Archived from the original on September 11, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  26. ^ Committee on Government Reform (June 16, 1999). PROS AND CONS OF DRUG LEGALIZATION, DECRIMINALIZATION, AND HARM REDUCTION. Government Publishing Office.
  27. ^ "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. March 16, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  28. ^ "Committee Report No. 6 - HESA (41-2)". House of Commons of Canada. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  29. ^ "Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the Cycle". Parliament UK. 2012. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  30. ^ Sabet, Kevin. "Written Testimony "Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits"" (PDF). US Senate Judiciary Committee. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 25, 2016.
  31. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (December 4, 2006). "A Third Way On Drug Laws". Washington Post. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  32. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (January 1, 2012). "Drug Policy Needs Centrists". The New York Times.
  33. ^ "Kevin Sabet Debates Ethan Nadelmann on CNN". Smart Approaches to Marijuana. November 12, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  34. ^ "Criminal Justice Reform". Smart Approached to Marijuana. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  35. ^ Christopher Ingraham (November 4, 2015). "Why Ohio voted against legal marijuana — and what it means for the future of the pot debate". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 1330888409.
  36. ^ Nelson, Steven (November 4, 2015). "Pot Foes Gloat After Ohio Vote, But Legalizers Are Prepping for Round 2". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  37. ^ Hesse, Josiah M. (November 2015). "The Wrong Way to Legalize Marijuana?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  38. ^ a b Wilson, Reid (July 10, 2018). "Marijuana politics evolving in red states". The Hill. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  39. ^ Christopher Ingraham (November 4, 2015). "Ohio's failed marijuana bill 'has been a godsend' for critics of legal pot". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 1330888409.
  40. ^ McGreevy, Patrick (August 2016). "Kennedy group puts $2 million into fight against pot-legalization measures". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  41. ^ "SAM Action Announces New State Partnerships". Smart Approaches to Marijuana. May 31, 2016.
  42. ^ Nelson, Steven (July 20, 2018). "New Jersey state senator fears 'sex toy oils with marijuana' after pot is legal". Washington Examiner. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  43. ^ K, Susan (February 16, 2018). "Legal marijuana foes offer a compromise: Decriminalize it". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  44. ^ Cruz, David (March 27, 2018). "Decriminalization bill faces tough road, Sen. Rice keeps up the pressure - Video". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  45. ^ "Who We Are". Safe Approahces to Marijuana - NJ (RAMP). Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  46. ^ Eadens, Savannah (February 9, 2018). "Decriminalization may be road to legalization in Illinois". Columbia Chronicle. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  47. ^ "Legalizing marijuana is a 'next year project' for Illinois". WJBC AM 1230. June 23, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  48. ^ DeWitt, Ethan (March 22, 2018). "N.H. House punts on marijuana legalization; opts for further study". Concord Monitor.
  49. ^ "Marijuana Legalization Bill Defeated in New Hampshire Senate Marijuana Legalization Proposal Dies in 19-4 Vote". Smart Approaches to Marijuana. March 20, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  50. ^ "NH TO BECOME 20TH STATE AFFILIATED WITH SMART APPROACHES TO MARIJUANA (SAM) - New Futures". Archived from the original on January 6, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  51. ^ a b Wilson, Reid (June 22, 2017). "Bid to legalize marijuana in Vermont goes up in smoke". The Hill. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  52. ^ Ring, Wilson (January 10, 2018). "Vermont poised to enact legal pot through Legislature". AP NEWS. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  53. ^ Nicholson, Blake (August 14, 2018). "North Dakota Recreational Pot Measure Approved for Ballot". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  54. ^ Hoffman, Megan (September 8, 2018). "Group forms to fight against legalizing marijuana". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  55. ^ Romero, Dennis (November 7, 2018). "Cannabis proponents claim big wins in Michigan, Missouri, the House". NBC News. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  56. ^ Sabet, Kevin (October 30, 2012). "There Are Smarter Ways to Deal With Marijuana Than Legalization". U.S. News & World Report.
  57. ^ Roberts, Michael (August 14, 2017). "Meet Kevin Sabet, USA's Most Influential Critic of Marijuana Legalization". Westword. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  58. ^ "History of the ONDCP - YouTube". Archived from the original on December 20, 2021. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  59. ^ Burness, Alex (April 28, 2021). "Colorado reckons with high-potency marijuana and its impact on children". The Denver Post. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  60. ^ "Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn't Want You to Know Kindle Edition". Amazon. Archived from the original on March 24, 2021.
  61. ^ "Chronicle Book Review: "Reefer Sanity"". Stop the Drug War. September 19, 2013. Archived from the original on July 7, 2016.
  62. ^ Brody, Jane E. (March 8, 2021). "Medical Marijuana Is Not Regulated as Most Medicines Are". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  63. ^ Sabet, Kevin A.; Winters, Ken C., eds. (July 2, 2018). Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-026307-2. Retrieved March 4, 2019.

External links edit