KevinSabet

World Federation Against Drugs

Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention

Awarded to Kevin Sabet, Ph.D.

May 19, 2014 | Stockholm, Sweden


Dr. Kevin Sabet is a remarkable leader in drug policy. He is co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, known as Project SAM, an organization that is exposing the pro-drug lobby’s false claims that marijuana is harmless while it promotes its legalization. Kevin is presenting sensible new strategies to reduce marijuana use while also reducing incarceration and promoting drug-free youth and recovery for those who are dependent on marijuana.

In January 2013, Kevin founded SAM with U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Together they have assembled a leadership team of mental health and public policy professionals that reject the false dichotomy of either “incarceration or legalization”. Like the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD), SAM rejects the concept of “prison or health,” focusing instead on ways to make the criminal justice system and healthcare work better together to achieve goals neither can achieve alone. SAM is working to stop the establishment of Big Marijuana that will likely blossom if marijuana is legalized, following the well-established model industries of Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. SAM recognizes the complexities of drug policy and addiction and is creative and realistic about addressing the unintended consequences of current policies. SAM is working to improve marijuana policy in the interest of both public health and public safety.

Kevin is the author of the book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, a clear and compelling analysis of the consequences of marijuana legalization. It serves as an excellent manifesto for all who care about drug policy and addiction.

Kevin Sabet jumped into drug policy in middle school, as a writer on the issue for a county newspaper, and then as a college student at the University of California at Berkeley, one of America’s most notorious centers of drug use. From the moment he entered Berkeley, from which he graduated with high honors in Political Science, Kevin led a student campaign against drug use. He prominently opposed both MDMA/Ecstasy use (which had reached epidemic proportions among his age group in California) and marijuana use. Not only was he one of the most visible students at that distinguished university, but his work there launched him as a national figure promoting drug-free youth. Kevin earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Social Policy at Oxford University.

Subsequently, Kevin worked at the highest levels in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), serving with distinction under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. From 2009-2011 he served as Senior Advisor at ONDCP for the Obama Administration. He is the youngest senior staffer in ONDCP history and the only ONDCP political appointee of presidents from opposing political parties. Currently, in addition to leading SAM, he is Director of the Institute on Drug Policy at the University of Florida.

Like David versus Goliath, Kevin leads an uphill, unequal, and at times, seemingly hopeless, policy campaign against Goliath, the well-funded, relentless pro-drug machine. Kevin steps into big shoes in this role as David. Five decades ago, Nils Bejerot became the prophet of the drug-free standard. His passion was forged by his experience with harm reduction policies which seemed on the surface to be humane and compassionate but in reality kept drug users addicted and spread addiction to others like a contagious disease. Bejerot persisted in a lifelong battle to turn back the permissive drug policy tide and succeeded, building the modern balanced and restrictive Swedish drug policy that seldom uses incarceration yet often uses the criminal justice system to promote and to sustain addiction treatment.

Knowing this Swedish history and the reality of the highly personal, yet fully global, tragedy of addiction, we, who are gathered together at this meeting, know that history is on Kevin’s side. He must, and he will, prevail in this campaign, in part because of his skill, determination and brilliance, just as Nils Bejerot prevailed. There is another reason that history is on Kevin’s side: the disaster of drug legalization is becoming unmistakable. As this folly plays out, the so-called solution of legalization to the drug epidemic will be exposed as a destructive fraud. This too recapitulates the Swedish experience with drug abuse in the late 1960s.

All of us will benefit directly from Kevin’s leadership as he informs and educates the global community. Just as we need him to continue this important work, he needs us to carry the message of prevention and recovery to our countries and to our own local communities. Working alone we cannot prevail. But together we march under a winning drug-free banner. Our message is the antithesis of the surrender to drug use and addiction that is at the root of harm reduction and of drug legalization.

Dr. Kevin Sabet is an extraordinary leader whose work will continue to spread the message of hope by creating a better drug policy that promotes healthy, drug-free lives. Kevin Sabet and WFAD are united in their vision and in their determination to stand up to the worldwide tide of surrender to the drug culture. Kevin is inspired by the bright light of Nils Bejerot. It is fitting that he receives this year’s Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention, the highest award given by WFAD. We are confident that the spirit of Professor Bejerot is with us today as we salute Kevin Sabet.

Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention Committee:

Robert L. DuPont, M.D. Kerstin Käll, M.D. Per Johansson