SAM’s Staff and Advisory Board

Health-First Approach

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy. We are professionals working in mental health and public health. We are bipartisan. We are medical doctors, lawmakers, treatment providers, preventionists, teachers, law enforcement officers and others who seek a middle road between incarceration and legalization. Our commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy is based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.

Mission & Vision

Smart Approaches to Marijuana envisions a society where marijuana policies are aligned with the scientific understanding of marijuana’s harms, and the commercialization and normalization of marijuana are no more.

Our mission is to educate citizens on the science of marijuana and to promote health-first, smart policies and attitudes that decrease marijuana use and its consequences.

Our Staff

Kevin A. Sabet, PhD

President & CEO

KEVIN A. SABET, PHD An affiliate of Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Medical School, dubbed by NBC News as the “prodigy of drug politics,” author, consultant, and the only bipartisan drug policy advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations, Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for more than 25 years. His first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, was published by Beaufort (Midpoint) in 2013, and its second edition released in 2018. He is also the co-editor of Marijuana and Contemporary Health, published by Oxford University Press. His bestselling book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know, was distributed by Simon & Schuster in 2021 and released to critical acclaim. Dr. Sabet’s work as a government advisor began in the Clinton Administration as a researcher, and he was the senior speechwriter on drug policy in the Bush Administration (2002-2003). He returned to government in 2009, where he was asked to assist in drafting President Obama’s National Drug Control Strategy as a senior advisor. In 2011, he stepped down after being the only drug policy staffer to have served as a political appointee in a Democrat and Republican administration. He has since been profiled in Politico, Crain's Business, Salon Magazine, the International Business Times, The Daily Beast, Vox, and many other publications as America's point person on drug policy issues. He has spoken at the Allen and Co. Sun Valley Conference, the Aspen Ideas, New Yorker, and Politicon festivals, at the Puebla Ideas Conference to debate the former presidents of Mexico and Colombia, on the Organization of American States blue ribbon commission advising hemispheric drug policy, and in hundreds of forums and discussions. He has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and in virtually every major media publication and news channel on the subject of drug policy. He has published op-eds in the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and dozens of other publications. Dr. Sabet’s regular blog is housed at the Huffington Post and two of his opeds have earned him a “Five Best Columns” distinction by The Atlantic. Dr. Sabet also regularly advises foreign governments, several non-governmental organizations working to reduce drug abuse and its consequences, and serves in an international role as an advisor, in various capacities, to the United Nations and other multi-national organizations. He is the winner of numerous drug policy awards, including the 2014 Nils Bejerot Award for Global Drug Prevention, given at Stockholm City Hall by the anti-drug organization chaired by H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, the 2019 National Narcotics Lifetime Achievement Award, and the John P. McGovern Award for Drug Prevention given by the Institute for Behavior and Health, and Robert DuPont, the founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He received his Doctorate of Philosophy and Masters of Science from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar in 2007 and 2002, respectively, and his B.A. with high honors in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

Luke Niforatos

Executive Vice President

Luke Niforatos serves as the Executive Vice President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading drug policy experts. Leveraging more than a decade working on drug, addiction and health care issues, Luke drives the strategy behind SAM’s federal, state, and educational initiatives. Luke has testified in state capitols across America. He is a sought-after guest on major media outlets including ABC, Fox News, NBC, CNBC, CSPAN, Newsmax, and network affiliates, as well as syndicated and local radio shows in markets coast to coast. Luke has been featured in Time Magazine and as a speaker at drug policy events held by The Economist, the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and hundreds of town halls. Prior to joining SAM, he was the co-founder of a successful healthcare company. Luke attended the University of Denver and has a Master of Arts from Johns Hopkins University.  

Jaime Zerbe

Chief of Staff

Jaime Zerbe currently serves as SAM’s Chief of Staff where she focuses on internal and external communications, manages daily operations, and provides guidance for SAM’s legislative and communications strategy. Jaime’s time in DC began like so many others: answering the phone in her congressman’s office. After some time on the Hill, Jaime served as the Legislative Director at a national nonprofit and advised on drug policy as well as communications strategy. In 2020, Jaime started a successful aviation-focused digital marketing firm that she named after her late father.

Will Jones III

Director of Community Engagement and Outreach

Coming from a legacy of civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C, Will Jones serves as the Communications and Outreach Associate at SAM. He is an experienced speaker and community activist working on issues of social justice at the local and national level.   Partnering with national drug policy advisors and leaders around Washington, D.C., in 2014 Jones founded Two Is Enough DC to raise awareness of the predatory marijuana commercial industry which disproportionally targets disenfranchised communities similar to Alcohol and Big Tobacco. He later started the campaign against marijuana legalization and commercialization in D.C.   Mr. Jones has been featured on a wide variety of TV, radio and print outlets talking about marijuana policy and other issues including NBC, Reuters TV, CBS, BBC World, Al Jazeera, C-span the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Associated Press.   Mr Jones is also a 3rd generation Washingtonian and proudly serves as a DC Firefighter/EMT and obtained his MPA from The GWU Trachtenberg School of Public Policy.

Brendan Fairfield

Director of External Programs

Brendan serves as the Director of External Programs for SAM. He is responsible for creating and implementing fundraising plans, cultivating donor relationships, and organizing SAM trainings and speaking engagements. Prior to SAM, Brendan served as the Executive Director of Next Chapter, LLC, a company founded by former U.S. Representative, Patrick J. Kennedy. In his role with Next Chapter, Brendan spearheaded development of speaking engagements and consulting positions within the behavioral health space for the former Congressman. Before Next Chapter, Brendan spent 10 years working in the front office of minor league baseball teams serving as the Vice President of the Somerset Patriots Professional Baseball Club and then onto the Atlantic City Surf Professional Baseball Club where he was the General Manager.

Connor Kubeisy

Policy Analyst

Connor Kubeisy is a Policy Analyst with the Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions and its sister organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, after having joined them as a Communications and Policy Associate in January 2022. He began his career as an intern in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Trump and Biden administrations. In 2022, he served as the Campaign Manager of the group that helped defeat the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota. He co-authored a chapter in the ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, 7th edition, about the impact of the cannabis industry on cannabis use disorder. Additionally, he is a member of the National Safety Council's Impairment Advisory Board and the Global Burden of Disease Study's Collaborator Network. Connor received the Director’s Award from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and was selected to attend the Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Policy Leadership Conference. He was recognized by the Washington Examiner as “an emerging voice in the drug policy field.” Connor graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Political Science, where he was a student manager with the school's Division 1 baseball team and won the Kavanagh Award from the Society for American Baseball Research. He previously received an A.A. from Moorpark College, where he was named a member of the First Team All-California Community College Academic Team. He is currently a Master of Public Health student, in health policy, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where he was elected to serve as the Public Relations Coordinator for the Harvard Chan Student Association.

Jordan Davidson

Government Affairs Manager

Jordan Davidson serves as SAM’s Government Affairs Manager. When he was 17 years old, Jordan entered long-term addiction recovery after struggling with cannabis use disorder. Prior to joining SAM, Jordan worked in Connecticut politics at the state and federal level. At SAM, Jordan manages federal policy on Capitol Hill. Jordan helped shepherd the passage of the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, the first-ever marijuana reform bill signed into law. He also led successful efforts to defeat Congressional passage of the MORE, States Reform, Cannabis Administration and Opportunity, and SAFE Banking Acts. Since he joined SAM in 2019, Jordan has specialized in youth outreach and substance abuse prevention. He has been invited as a guest speaker by organizations and members of Congress across the country. Jordan has a BA in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C.

Marcus Edelstein

Communications and Data Specialist

Marcus Edelstein serves as SAM’s Communications and Data Specialist. He analyzes data to create reports and presentations on the impacts of marijuana policy and legislation. Prior to joining SAM, Marcus served as a Strategy Analyst at KGO and Survey Operations Fellow at Bully Pulpit Interactive. Graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics and a minor in Political Science, Marcus sharpened his statistical and research skills while contributing to various projects and surveys.

Dana Stevens

SAM Director of Local Affairs/ High Means DUI

Dana serves as SAM’s Director of Local Affairs. She also oversees SAM's High Means DUI initiative which seeks to bring light to the stories of victims of marijuana-related car crashes. She has been a public health and safety advocate most of her adult life! She cut her policy chops serving as a volunteer for the 9th District PTA (San Diego & Imperial Counties) as Vice President of Community Concerns and then Vice President of Public Health. She also served on the state PTA Legislative Committee where she learned to work state legislation. Volunteer policy work led to professional campaign initiatives, including the Campaign to Stop Gun Violence (including the assault weapons ban, an initiative to eliminate Saturday Night Specials and to prohibit "look-a-like toy guns). In 1994, Dana ran the San Diego County campaign organization in opposition to big tobacco's Prop 188 (to roll back California's progressive tobacco-free workplace laws). In spite of being outspent (20/1) the NO on 188 campaign trounced big tobacco with 74% of the vote. Her work to reduce binge and underage drinking in Mexico (where the drinking age is 18) was featured on CBS News programs 60Minutes and 48-Hours as well as the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Luke Albee

Senior Advisor

Luke Albee, described as “the Dean of Senate Chiefs of Staff” by Politico, has served as Chief of Staff to Senators Mark Warner (2009-15) and Patrick Leahy (1993-2004), directing a broad array of legislative, policy, political and communications activities for both Members. He has a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics, and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Vermont.

Crissy Groenewegen

Parent Action Network Director

Crissy Groenewegen serves as the Director of the Parent Action Network. She comes from a counseling, education and prevention background and has spent the last five years as a community prevention educator, coalition coordinator and Director of a small non-profit agency dedicated to preventing youth initiation into substance use and misuse. She is a skilled prevention specialist, experienced at building the capacity of small grass roots community groups and movements. She is passionate about making a difference in our communities and working to make our neighborhoods safe for youth and families. The decision to take on this role comes from a place of great respect for the advocacy work that SAM does. She shares SAM’s mission and vision of creating a network of parents and families who will be able to tell their stories, and in turn educate lawmakers, and advocate for safe policies surrounding the issue of legalized marijuana and the dangers of the new high potency THC analogs. Crissy is the mother of three adult children and lives in Dutchess County, NY with her husband, their two dogs and two cats.

Teresa Haley

Senior Policy Advisor, Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions

Teresa Haley serves as Senior Policy Advisor to FDPS and the President of the Illinois Chapter of the NAACP. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication in 1992 and her master’s degree in Public Administration in 1994 from the University of Illinois. She is a longtime passionate civil rights activist, public policy advocate, professional trainer and dynamic speaker. In 2015, she became the first female president of the Illinois NAACP State Conference and is serving her sixth consecutive term as president of the Springfield Branch NAACP. She spearheaded the first-ever Springfield Branch NAACP Office and Education Center. She chairs the Economic Development Workgroup for the Illinois Department of Public Health Covid Taskforce and Springfield Airport Authority, which helps small black-owned businesses stay alive. She serves on the governor’s Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative Transition Committee and the Governor’s Commission for Environmental Justice. Among the numerous honors Haley has received is the first-ever NAACP Activist of the Year Image Award in 2020, the Community Service Award from the Frontier International Club in 2020. Teresa was the first black female to receive the Springfield’s First Citizens Award in 2019. In February 2022, Teresa received the Alumni Humanitarian Award from the University of Illinois for her outstanding involvement and dedication, significant contribution of leadership and service. In March 2022, Teresa received the Paul Harris Fellow Award - Community Service Award from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

Science Advisory Board

Dr. Hoover Adger

Science Advisor

Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Director of Adolescent Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which he joined in 1984. Since that time, he has served as Director of the Substance Abuse Assessment/Intervention Team at The Johns Hopkins Hospital Adolescent Program and as Director of The Johns Hopkins Substance Abuse Faculty Development Programs. In February 1997, Dr. Adger was selected to fill the position of Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In July 1998, he returned to Johns Hopkins to resume his duties as a full-time faculty member. From 1999-2005, he served as Co-Director of the Strategic Planning Initiative funded by HRSA and SAMHSA/CSAT to advise the federal government and others on improving and expanding interdisciplinary education and training of health professionals in substance use disorders. He currently serves as principal investigator and project director of the HRSA-funded Leadership & Education in Adolescent Health project at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and as the faculty leader of the Florence Sabin College in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Adger also is a past president of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse and a past president of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. Dr. Adger continues a five-year study of residents’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in substance abuse. A major emphasis for him has been on building an infrastructure and funding base for a new program, “The Family Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.”  He is also the Associate Director of the Strategic Planning Initiative for a project funded by HRSA to develop a strategic plan which will advise the federal government and others on improving and expanding interdisciplinary and discipline-specific substance abuse disorders-related education and training in medicine, psychology, pharmacy, social work and allied health.

Judge Arthur Burnett (In Memoriam)

Science Advisor

As National Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr. operates as an advisor on many issues facing American youth including juvenile delinquency, neglect, abuse and the foster care system. Currently on sabbatical, Judge Burnett, Sr. also serves as the senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia where he hears cases involving neglect, abuse, termination of parental rights, and adoption. He is also the court’s community relations liaison judge, with the responsibility of preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency and promoting improvements in the foster care and adoption systems of the district. Judge Burnett, Sr. he began his law career in 1958 specializing in fraud, obscenity and public integrity criminal cases in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice in the Criminal Division and serving as a special prosecutor for the U. S. Department of Justice. From 1965 to 1969, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. where he prosecuted homicide and other cases, for nearly four years. In 1968 he became First Legal Adviser for the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department. In 1969, Judge Burnett, Sr. was appointed the first African American United States Magistrate in the United States. He served until 1975 and then became the Legal Advisor for the United States Civil Service System. From 1977 to 1980, he was also a legal advisor to the President of the United States on all civil service and personnel laws and as one of the President’s chief representatives in dealing with federal personnel system bills pending before the U.S. Congress. In 1980 he was again appointed United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and served until appointed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the President in 1987. Judge Burnett, Sr. received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in Economics summa cum laude from Howard University and his Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 1958. Highlights of his college and law school years include being elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a Howard University junior, graduating from New York University School of Law in the top 10% of his class and as a Founders’ Day Award Recipient, and holding the title of Associate Research Editor of its Law Review. He was a member of the American Bar Association Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and the District of Columbia Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. He is a former Chair of the National Bar Association Juvenile Justice Task Force and former Chair of its Juvenile Justice Committee.

Ben Cort

Science Advisor

Ben Cort’s passion for recovery, prevention and harm reduction comes from his own struggle with substance abuse. Sober since June 15, 1996, Ben has been a part of the recovery community in almost every way imaginable. From recipient to provider to spokesperson, Ben has a deep understanding of the issues and a personal motivation to see the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse minimized. Today, he spends his time as an author and an consultant. However, Ben built much of his career outside of the field of substance abuse recovery. Until 2007, he was the director of human resources at an S&P 500 firm. But his departure from that role did, indeed, compel him to do do more to help people enduring the substance struggles he knows so well. Ben started out by working to support a Colorado-based nonprofit that helps people regain sobriety, Phoenix Multisport (PM). As an original board member and then the nonprofit’s first full-time employee, he was instrumental in building Phoenix Multisport into a nationally recognized organization lauded for its innovative approach to building sober communities around sport and healthy activities. He worked extensively with the treatment community and with drug courts and the therapy community as advisor, a member of clinical teams, frequent speaker and liaison. As someone who understands the experience of addiction treatment as much as the leadership of the programs delivering that treatment, Ben brings a holistic, compassionate and informed perspective to SAM’s efforts.

Dr. A. Eden Evins

Science Advisory

Dr. A. Eden Evins is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Addiction Medicine and the Addiction Research Program of the Massachusetts General Hospital. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She completed an internship in pediatric medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and her residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and Harvard-Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in Boston, where she was also chief resident. Dr. Evins conducted a fellowship in molecular biology at the Mailman Research Center of McLean Hospital and a second fellowship in clinical and translational research at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She received a master’s degree in public health in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Evins’ research interests include development of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for nicotine dependence and for prevention of relapse to nicotine and other addictive disorders in people with and without major mental illness. Her interests also include development of personalized treatment algorithms, pharmacotherapy for negative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. She has authored book chapters, reviews and articles that have been published in prestigious scientific journals, such as the American Journal of PsychiatryBiological PsychiatryNeuropsychopharmacologyJournal of Clinical Psychiatry, and the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. Dr. Evins has received two career awards from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institute of Health (NIH), has twice received a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award, received the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit Young Investigator Award, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program Young Investigator Award. She is currently funded by a NIDA career development award to mentor young scientists in patient-oriented addiction research and to continue her work in development of personalized treatments for addictive disorders, and by two NIDA R01 grants, two R21 grants and one U01 grant for the study of novel pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for addictive disorders.

Dr. Sion Kim Harris

Science Advisory

Dr. Sion Kim Harris is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CeASAR), an international research center that strives to be a leading source of innovative, effective strategies to prevent, identify, and treat substance-related problems in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since its inception in 1999, CeASAR has pioneered work in adolescent substance use screening and brief intervention strategies, including the development of the CRAFFT screen which has become the internationally recommended standard for adolescent substance use screening. CeASAR has conducted research in partnership with investigators worldwide including the Czech Republic, Spain, Zambia, Turkey, Brazil, Colombia. CeASAR studies also include evaluation of the effects of adolescent substance use on brain development. Dr. Harris has published nearly 70 original scientific publications, and has received numerous awards, including the Young Professional Award from the Maternal and Child Health Section of the American Public Health Association, and Best Research Award from the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. She is an advisory member of the National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Resource Center and the MCHB Adolescent and Young Adult Health Research Network.

Dr. Marilyn Huestis

Science Advisor

Dr. Marilyn Huestis is adjunct professor of University of Maryland’s School of Medicine and recently retired from her position as NIDA’s Chief of Chemistry and Drug Metabolism last year after a 23-year career with the Institute. Professor Huestis is a world-renowned expert on human drug testing, publishing 453 manuscripts and book chapters on the topic and serves on five editorial boards. Her research focuses on effects of occasional and frequent cannabinoid use on pregnancy and child outcomes, brain function and driving impairment, and on novel psychoactive substances – synthetic cannabinoids. She received her Ph.D. in toxicology from University of Maryland, Baltimore, and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in medicine and surgery from University of Helsinki in Finland. Professor Huestis is past president of the Society of Forensic Toxicology, the Toxicology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists, and has received numerous national and international awards recognizing her research and contributions to public health and safety.

Dr. Yifrah Kaminer

Science Advisor

Dr. Yifrah Kaminer is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with an appointment as a Professor of Psychiatry at University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Alcohol Research Center and Professor ofPediatrics at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Center. Dr. Kaminer’s research focuses on the assessment and treatment of youth substance use disorders. He has authored/edited five books, published more than 160 scientific articles, and guest edited journals including Substance Abuse Journal and American Journal of Addictions. He received his M.D. from Tel-Aviv University in Israel, and his MBA from the University of Hartford. Dr. Kaminer is also coordinator of the Youth Treatment Section of the Research Society on Marijuana (RSMj)’s advisory board.

Dr. Kimber Richter

Science Advisor

A Professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas. Her research is focused on treating tobacco dependence and training health professionals to incorporate tobacco treatment into their clinical practice. She is clinical director of the University of Kansas Hospital’s highly successful tobacco-treatment program, UKanQuit at KUMed. Her research projects — many of which have received funding from the National Institutes of Health — include treating rural smokers and understanding the overlap in tobacco and other drug dependence.

Dr. Paula Riggs

Science Advisor

An associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado at Denver. For the last decade, she also has served as director of psychiatric services for adolescents at the university-affiliated Addiction, Research and Treatment Services (ARTS). Dr. Riggs’ research career has focused on the development and testing of effective pharmacotherapy and behavioral treatment interventions in adolescents with substance use disorders and psychiatric comorbidity. More recently, her research has expanded to multi-site effectiveness trials of combined pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions conducted in community-based treatment settings. Dr. Riggs has been the principal investigator on several research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institue on Drug Abuse. They include a recently completed randomized, controlled trial of fluoxetine versus placebo and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in depressed, substance-dependent adolescents. She is currently the principal investigator of a multi-site trial in NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (CTN): A Randomized Controlled Trial of OROS-MPH for ADHD in Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders.

Dr. Christian Thurstone

Science Advisor

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of fewer than three dozen physicians in the United States who are board certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is medical director of one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse-treatment clinics and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction-medicine fellowship program. Dr. Thurstone has completed medical training at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and UCD. In 2010, he completed five years of mentored research training through the National Institute on Drug Abuse/American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry K12 Research Program in Substance Abuse. He is also a past president of the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society. He is honored to treat American service members who need mental healthcare as an Army Reserves officer in the Combat Stress Unit of the 807th Medical Command. Dr. Thurstone is a fluent Spanish speaker and enjoys working with many of his young patients and their families in his second language.

Dr. Kathryn Wells

Science Advisor

A board-certified Child Abuse Pediatrician and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado at Denver. She instructs in the area of maternal substance abuse and child maltreatment. Currently, Dr. Wells serves as medical director of the Denver Health Clinic at the Family Crisis Center and as an attending physician at Denver Health and at the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She also is president of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a leader of the Colorado Court Improvement Project and a member of the board of directors of the Colorado State Foster Parent Association. Dr. Wells assisted in the formation of the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she serves as an advisor to the executive committee. She was also involved in the development of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, where she participates in the Medical/Research Working Group. Dr. Wells has conducted research on drug issues as they relate to children. Supported by a grant from ACYF’s Children’s Bureau, she developed a model program to better identify and serve substance-exposed newborns and their families. Another grant from HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Tomorrows Program allowed Dr. Wells to develop a medical home for children in foster care. The result of that effort is the Connections for Kids Clinic at Denver Health — which now provides medical evaluations for 90 percent of the children placed in foster care in the City and County of Denver. Dr. Wells has received several professional awards. In 2011, she received the James E. Strain Community Service Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for of her outstanding contribution to children’s interests. In 2009, she received the Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Advocate of the Year Award. In 2007, she received both the inaugural National Collaborative Leadership Award from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare and the Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) branch of HHS. In her spare time, Dr. Wells enjoys anything related to the outdoors including cycling, hiking, and camping.

Dr. Aaron Weiner

Science Advisor

Dr. Aaron Weiner is a board-certified Psychologist and owner of Bridge Forward Group, a private practice and consulting organization.  He earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed his fellowship in Addiction Psychology at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.  Prior to forming Bridge Forward in 2020, Dr. Weiner served as the Director of Addiction Services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, Illinois, and the founder and clinical director of the Spectrum Health Addiction Rehabilitation Program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Weiner is a strong advocate for evidence-based care in treating chemical dependency and behavioral addictions, as well as a proponent of integrating behavioral health services into medical settings.  Dr. Weiner has been an outspoken advocate for numerous forward-leaning trends, including naloxone co-prescribing in hospital settings, fentanyl test strips, responsible opioid destruction, marijuana education, person-first language for stigma reduction, and vaping awareness for youth.  He has spoken nationally on the topics of opioid addiction, marijuana commercialization, and the vaping epidemic, as well as has served as a context expert for both policy-makers and media outlets. In addition to his work in healthcare systems, Dr. Weiner is adjunct faculty in the Counseling Psychology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has served on the Board of the Society of Addiction Psychology, and won multiple regional awards for his commitment to converting best-practice ideas into real-world change. For more information about Dr. Weiner and his areas of focus, visit his website at

Dr. Stuart Gitlow

Science Advisor

Stuart Gitlow MD MPH MBA is Past President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and is its delegate to the AMA. Dr Gitlow formerly produced both Health Channel and ABC network programming at America Online. He obtained his MD at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, completed his psychiatric and public health training at University of Pittsburgh, PA, and completed a forensic psychiatry fellowship at Harvard University in Boston, MA. Dr. Gitlow has three decades of experience running a private practice of addiction psychiatry.

Dr. Gary Kirkilas

Science Advisor

Dr. Gary Kirkilas is a general pediatrician with a unique practice. His office is a 40 foot mobile medical unit that travels to various homeless shelters in Phoenix providing free medical care to families and teens. He also serves as a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, giving commentary on trending pediatric issues in the media. As a spokesperson, he is often called to speak on the effects of cannabis advertising on children and has written extensively on the topic. He has worked alongside legislators in several states in their attempt to restrict cannabis advertising that targets children. He and his lovely wife, have four wonderful (most of the time) children and one dachshund.