Kevin Sabet

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Kevin Abraham Sabet-Sharghi
Kevin Sabet, Co-Founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.png
Kevin Sabet, speaking at the New Yorker Magazine Festival, 2014
ResidenceWashington, DC and Cambridge, MA
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

Kevin Abraham Sabet-Sharghi (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).[citation needed] He is also an assistant professor adjunct at Yale University Medical School,[1] a fellow at Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies,[2] the Director of the Drug Policy Institute, and a courtesy assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida.[3]

With Patrick J. Kennedy, Sabet co-founded Smart Approaches to Marijuana in Denver in January 2013.[4]

Sabet is the author of numerous articles and monographs including the book Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, now in its second edition.[5]

Sabet is the recipient of the Nils Bejerot Award given in conjunction with H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden[6] and was one of four Americans (along with Jonathan Caulkins, Bertha Madras, and Robert DuPont) invited by Pope Francis to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss marijuana and other drug policy.[7][8] He was invited to speak at the Allen and Co. Sun Valley Investor's Conference in 2018.[9]

Upon founding SAM, Salon called Sabet "the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement"[10] and NBC News called him a "prodigy of drug politics".[11]

Education and career[edit]

Sabet is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Oxford University,[3] 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.[12] After leaving ONDCP after 2.5 years, he became a consultant and professor. Rolling Stone called him one of marijuana legalization's biggest enemies.[13]

Sabet is the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).[14] He is a regular contributor to TV and print media[15] and a blogger for the Huffington Post.[16]

Drug policy advocacy[edit]

During his freshman year at 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.[17] He has testified for the US Congress, Canadian Parliament, UK Parliament, and UN bodies multiple times.[18][19][20][21][22] He provided written testimony to the U.S. Senate on cannabidiol.[23]

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.[24] His articles have been published in newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.[25] He has argued for removing criminal penalties for low-level marijuana use, has opposed legalization[26] while supporting continued civil penalties for use, along with mandated treatment. He supports felony charges for manufacturing or selling large amounts of cannabis (or misdemeanors, depending on amount).[27]

Through the work of SAM, Sabet has been an active voice in successful campaigns to stop marijuana legalization initiatives in Ohio (2015),[28][29][30][31][32][33][34] and legislative initiatives in New Jersey.[35] 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.[36][37][38]

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,[39][40] New Hampshire,[31][41][42][43] and Vermont.[44] While Vermont decriminalized marijuana possession in 2013 and allowed for personal use and "home-grow" in 2018,[45] Sabet and SAM have worked with partners to defeat outright commercialization such as seen in Colorado, California, and Washington.[44] In North Dakota, Sabet and SAM allies campaigned against a ballot measure to legalize cannabis that was defeated.[46][47][48]

Prior to SAM's founding, Sabet wrote op-eds and spoke across Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon.[49] SAM campaigned against initiatives to legalize marijuana in California,[50] Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts,[51] and Michigan.[52][53] However, none of these efforts were successful, as marijuana was legalized in each of these states.[54][48]

Some say Sabet is arguably the most influential person in the movement against cannabis legalization in the United States.[55]

However, throughout Sabet's career, many have raised concerns about Sabet and SAM exhibiting a pattern of using questionable methods to present arguments, such as providing misleading or incorrect information and distorting data.[56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66]

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 that he claimed included one bag of regular candy and one bag of THC-infused candy. He asserted, "one of them is real, one of them isn’t." After the forum concluded, Sabet left both bags of candy unattended, which were subsequently stolen. The attendee of the forum (a pro-legalization activist) who stole the bags allegedly submitted them to a laboratory for testing of their marijuana content, and claimed that neither bag contained any THC (the psychoactive compound of marijuana). Sabet later said, "No, of course they weren’t real...I told Fox News that they weren’t that very night. I was making a point that you can’t tell the difference between real and fake pot edibles—and if someone from [the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws] couldn’t tell the difference and had to steal them to find out, I think the point was made pretty well.” despite his claims on the night of the debate that they were, in fact, real.[67]

In addition to his work on cannabis, Sabet has written on the benefits of alcohol prohibition. Namely, that the prohibition of alcohol led to positive outcomes for public health, such as a 66 percent reduction in cases of cirrhosis of the liver in males and a 50 percent reduction in arrests for public intoxication. That said, he stated that no one was suggesting alcohol prohibition should be reinstated.[68] He has also claimed that safe injection sites for IV drug users, a policy that has shown to decrease harm from drug abuse and is endorsed by the AMA[69] and harm reduction advocates,[70] could lead to legalization of heroin.[71] Sabet has joined in opposition to harm reduction policies, including these safe injection sites and needle exchange programs.[72]

Books and writings[edit]

Sabet is the author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, now in its second edition.[73] He also co-edited Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana, published by Oxford.[74]


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  2. ^ "Kevin Sabet - Institution for Social and Policy Studies". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Faculty » Department of Psychiatry » College of Medicine » University of Florida". Retrieved December 12, 2016.
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  13. ^ "Legalization's Biggest Enemies | Politics News". Rolling Stone. January 17, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  14. ^ "Our Fellows » Drug Policy Institute » College of Medicine » University of Florida". May 30, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  15. ^ "Media". Kevin Sabet. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
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  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Sabet, Kevin. "Written Testimony "Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits"" (PDF). US Senate Judiciary Committee.
  24. ^ "Kevin A. Sabet — A Third Way On Drug Laws". December 4, 2006. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  25. ^ Sabet, Kevin A. (January 1, 2012). "Drug Policy Needs Centrists". The New York Times.
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  73. ^ "Reefer Sanity : Seven Great Myths About Marijuana". Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  74. ^ "Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana". Oxford University Press. July 2, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019 – via Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]