Biographic Summary of Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D.


Dubbed the “quarterback” of the new anti-drug movement by Salon Magazine, Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D has over 18 years experience working on drug policy. Dr. Sabet is the Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and an Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. With Patrick J. Kennedy, he is the co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). He is also a policy consultant to numerous domestic and international organizations through his company, the Policy Solutions Lab. His current clients include the United Nations, where he holds a senior advisor position at the Italy-based United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. He also recently served as the only non medical doctor on the writing committee establishing the official position on marijuana legalization for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

From 2009-2011, he served in the Obama Administration as the Senior Advisor to Director Kerlikowske at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Representing his non-partisan commitment to drug policy, he previously worked on research, policy and speech writing at ONDCP in 2000 and from 2003-2004 in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, respectively. He remains the only staff member at ONDCP to hold a political appointment in both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Dr. Sabet is a regular contributor to opinion-editorial pages worldwide, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, New York Times, Vancouver Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, CNN, CNBC, and more than a dozen other media outlets. His first editorial since leaving ONDCP, published in the Los Angeles Times in September of 2011, earned him a “Five Best Columns” distinction by The Atlantic.

In his most recent senior position at ONDCP, Dr. Sabet advised Director Kerlikowske on all matters affecting priorities, policies, and programs of the National Drug Control Strategy. He was one of three main writers of President Obama’s first National Drug Control Strategy, and his portfolio included leading the office’s efforts on marijuana policy, legalization issues, international demand reduction, drugged driving, and synthetic drug (e.g. “Spice” and “Bath Salts”) policy. Dr. Sabet represented ONDCP in numerous meetings and conferences, and played a key role in the Administration’s international drug legislative and diplomatic efforts at the United Nations.

Dr. Sabet has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and books on the topics of drug policy, cocaine sentencing, legalization, marijuana decriminalization, medical marijuana, addiction treatment, drug prevention, crime, law enforcement, and other issues. Since consulting in the Fall of 2011, he has been quoted in over 15,000 news stories relating to drug policy. Dr. Sabet first offered testimony on drug policy to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1996.

As a Marshall Scholar, he received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Social Policy at Oxford University and B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, Shahrzad, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University.


Doctorate of Philosophy, Social Policy  2004-2007
University of Oxford(Recipient of George C. Marshall Scholarship)Thesis title: “Toward reducing total harm: Analyzing drug policies in Baltimore and New York”
Master of Science, Comparative Social Policy 2001-2002
University of Oxford(Recipient of George C. Marshall Scholarship)Thesis title: “Defining American drug policy: Is all policy local?”
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science (minor Public Policy) 1997-2001
University of California, Berkeley
Graduated with High Honors


Full-time work experience

Consultant, Policy Solutions Lab Present
Consultant to various governments and non-governmental organizations on drug policy issues, including a Senior Policy Advisor post with the United Nations. Advised the Organization of American States and many other entities, including community organizations.
Director, Drug Policy Institute, University of Florida Present
Founding Director and researcher at unique, multi-disciplinary center focused on helping policymakers make informed decisions on drug addiction issues.
The White House, Executive Office of the President 2009-2011
(Political Appointment in the Administration of Barack H. Obama; Top-Secret Security Clearance)
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Senior Policy Advisor to the Director
Senior Advisor to the Director of ONDCP, Gil Kerlikowske. One of three principal writers of the President’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy. Involved in all major policy decisions, liaised regularly with the Domestic Policy Council and Office of the Vice-President. Often represented the office to the media and in official meetings. Specific lead on marijuana, “medical” marijuana, legalization, synthetic drugs, drugged driving, and international and United Nations issues.
The White House, Executive Office of the President 2003-2004
(Political Appointment in the Administration of George W. Bush)
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Senior Speechwriter
Served as strategist, writer and editor for public pronouncements, including memos, speeches, press conferences, position papers, and other material.
The White House, Executive Office of the President 2000
(Schedule B Appointment in the Administration of William J. Clinton)
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Writer/Analyst, Office of Strategic Planning
Focused on specific research and writing projects, including a revision of the Clinton Administration’s position on drug legalization.


Selected peer-reviewed publications

Sabet, K.A. (4 March 2014). Review of The Alternative World Drug Report: Counting the Costs of the War on Drugs edited by Steve Rolles , George Murkin , Martin Powell , Danny Kushlick & Jane Slater. Drug and Alcohol Review. Volume 3, Issue 2.

Sabet, K.A. (editor) (in press). Drug Abuse and Women: Gender Perspectives on Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Initiative. [monograph]

Sabet, K.A. et al. (2013). Smart Justice: A New Paradigm for Dealing With Offenders. Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. 

Sabet, K.A. (2013). A New Direction? Yes. Legalization? No. Drawing on Evidence to Determine Where to Go in Drug Policy. Oregon Law Review. Volume 91, Issue 4.

Sabet, K.A. (2013). Much Ado About Nothing: Why Rescheduling Won’t Solve Advocates’ Medical Marijuana Problem. Wayne State Law Review. Volume 58, Issue 1.

Sabet, K.A., Cohen, M., Thau, S. (2012). Cannabis: A Short Review. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. [monograph]

Sabet, K.A. and Kerlikowske, R. G. (2011). Commentary on Voas et al.: Drug-Free Roadways – Can We Get There From Here? Addiction.

Sabet, K.A. and Caulkins, J. (2011).  Drug Abuse Warning Network. In Mark Kleiman and James Hawden (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Drug Policy. Sage Publications. [Total of eight entries in this publication.]

Sabet, K.A. and Johnson, B.J. (2008). Marijuana treatment admissions did not decrease after aggressive arrest policies were implemented in New York City.  Justice Research and Policy.

Sabet, K.A. (2007).  The local matters: A brief history of the tension between federal drug laws and state and local policy. Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, 4, 1.

Sabet, K.A. (2006). The (often unheard) case against marijuana leniency. In Mitch Earleywine(Ed.), Pot Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sabet, K.A. (2006). Harm Reduction and Heroin Maintenance in Vancouver. In AT ISSUE: HEROIN, Michigan: Thomas Gale, p. 7.

Sabet, K.A. (2005). Making it happen: The case for compromise in the federal cocaine law debate. Journal of Social Policy and Administration, 39, 2, pp. 181-191.

Sabet, K.A. (1999). Cannabis sativa as a medicinal application: The need to distinguish between isolated cannabinoids and smoked marijuana. Addictions, Vol. 1999, p 10.


Selected media appearances

Author of newspaper opinion-editorials appearing in scores of newspapers since 2000: e.g.New York Times, AP-New York Times Syndicate, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Vancouver Sun, San Jose Mercury News, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times

Featured in news articles: San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Oakland Tribune, Orange County Register, Teen People, Rolling Stone.

Appeared as guest/consulted for news content in major media outlets in the US and UK including: BBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC,, HBO, CNN Headline News International, BBC-4, BBC-Oxford, and scores of ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS affiliate television and radio stations.


Selected leadership and academic activities

Over 100 guest lectures delivered at major universities

Invited testimony to the United States Congress:

  • December 1996: Entry on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee record on the topic of “medical marijuana”
  • June 1999: Entry on the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources record on topic of the “drug legalization”
  • July 1999: Entry on the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources record on the topic of “harm reduction”
  • September 2013: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Marijuana Legalization



George C. Marshall Scholarship (2001)

  • One of forty national winners of prestigious three-year scholarship offered by the British government to US scholars. Initial pool of over 100,000 applicants.

Warr-Goodman Scholarship (2005 and 2006)

  • Single award winner of Oxford college scholarship given to most promising doctoral student (won twice).

National Institutes of Health Behavioral Sciences Training Pre-doctoral and Post-Doctoral Fellowships (2006-2008)

  • Appointed as a pre-doctoral (2006-2007) and post-doctoral (2007-2008) scholar at the National Development and Research Institute (NDRI) to research drug policy under Bruce Johnson, Ph.D.