SAM’s Staff and Science Advisory Board is composed of world-recognized experts in research, addiction, and treatment. They work to advance public health and safety by championing our four main objectives.

Staff

Kevin A. Sabet, PhD

SAM President and CEO

Described by NBC as the “prodigy” of drug politics and policy, Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, is an author, consultant, former advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations, assistant professor, and serves as the President and CEO of SAM, which he founded with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2013. He has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for almost 20 years. He has worked in the Clinton (2000), Bush (2002-2003) Administrations, and in 2011 he stepped down after serving more than two years as the senior advisor to President Obama’s drug control director, having been the only drug policy staffer to have ever served as a political appointee in a Democrat and Republican administration. He has appeared since at the Aspen Ideas and New Yorker festivals, on the Organization of American States blue ribbon commission advising hemispheric drug policy, and in hundreds of forums and discussions promoting the ideas outlined in his first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, published by Beaufort. 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.

Hi-res image available here: https://learnaboutsam.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/kevin.jpg

Luke Niforatos

Chief of Staff & Sr. Policy Advisor

Luke Niforatos serves as the Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor at SAM, described by the New York Times as the “well-coordinated opposition” to legalization. Luke’s background is in nonprofit community healthcare, having helped manage Federally Qualified Health Centers and worked on health disparities. Prior to joining SAM, Luke was also the Co-Founder of DocBuddy, a healthcare start-up based in Denver, Colorado that he later sold.

At SAM, Luke serves as the principal deputy to the CEO in his roles, manages the day to day operations of the organization, and serves as a spokesman on marijuana issues. In 2018, he was the campaign manager for the successful ballot campaign to defeat legalization in North Dakota, and led SAM’s legislative victories in more than two dozen states. He has been featured at The Economist’s Cannabis Summit as well as the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and in dozens of events and town halls across the country on the subject of drug policy. He has also been featured in many national media outlets, including Fox News and CNBC, and his op-eds are regularly published across the country. Luke graduated from the University of Denver, and his home state of Colorado gives he, his wife, and young daughter a unique vantage point on the issue of sound drug policy.

Abu Edwards

Director of State Affairs

Abu Edwards serves as SAM's Director of State Affairs. He is an experienced professional Organizer with over ten years' experience in community, campaign, political, and issue-based organizing.

Prior to joining the SAM family, Abu fought Big Marijuana as the Field Director for Healthy and Productive Michigan. Prior to that, he was the co- founder of Millennials In Action, a Political Action Committee.

Abu took a leadership role in gearing Millennials in Action mission towards organizing, educating, and empowering urban millennials and community residents to play a ``substantive role`` in regional politics.

Other highlights of Abu's career: he served as the Political Director for the Katie McGinty campaign for Pennsylvania Governor and Deputy Campaign Manager of the David Wecht campaign for Supreme Court.

Abu is active in several organizations including the Philadelphia Free Library, Member of Blacks in Government, and the National Coordinator of the Flag program (Future Leaders of American Government). He is an active alum of Wilberforce University, Located in Wilberforce Ohio.

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.

Garth Van Meter

SAM Vice President of Government Affairs

Garth Van Meter is Vice President of Government Affairs at SAM, where he serves as chief legislative liaison for the organization.

Previously, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Louisiana Congressman John Fleming, M.D., a former addictions treatment center director and champion of public health-focused marijuana policies.

Van Meter also served as the Legislative Director for Congressman Chip Cravaack and Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Bob Inglis. He received his MBA and BS in Computer Engineering from The George Washington University.

Colton Grace

Communications Associate

Colton Grace serves as SAM's Communications Associate. He is an experienced political communicator with experience in messaging, writing, marketing, and social media operations.

Prior to joining the SAM family, Colton served in the press office of Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina where he focused on daily news briefings, drafting op-eds, and running the congressman's social media accounts.

Before serving on the Hill, Colton served as co-founder and vice-president of a campaign consulting firm where he assisted in running state-level campaigns.

He is a graduate of Limestone College in South Carolina and a competitive powerlifter.

Will Jones III

Communications and Outreach Associate

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 husband, father and 3rd generation Washingtonian. He proudly serves as a DC Firefighter/EMT and is working on his MPA at George Washington University.

Brendan Fairfield

Director of Business Development

Brendan serves as the Director of Development 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.

SAM’s Science Advisory Board

 

Dr. Hoover Adger

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.

 

thBHR6UC6ZJudge Arthur Burnett

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

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.

 

1a3c386Dr. A. Eden Evins

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 Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology, Journal 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.

 

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Dr. Sion Kim Harris

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

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 

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. Christine Miller

A graduate from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Dr. Miller earned her Ph. D. in Pharmacology through the Neuroscience Training Program. Her professional history includes both instructor and research associate at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, postdoctoral fellow at Mental Health Research Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and research microbiologist at US Geological Survey. Dr. Miller has been published in peer-reviewed journals over 30 times in her 30-year career.

Dr. Kimber Richter

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.

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Dr. Paula Riggs

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

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.

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Dr. Kathryn Wells

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

Dr. Aaron Weiner is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of Addiction Services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Illinois, which has been recognized by the independent Joint Commission accreditor with a Gold Seal of Approval for its excellent treatment of drug addiction.  He also serves as affiliate faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Dr. Weiner earned his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in Addiction Psychology with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan.

Dr. Weiner is a strong advocate for evidence-based care in treating cannabis use disorder, as well as for integrating behavioral health services into medical settings. He has served on county and state-level advisory boards related to the opioid epidemic, and spearheaded numerous initiatives in Edward-Elmhurst Health related to opioid prescribing and addiction. 

 He earned his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in addiction psychology with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan.

Honorary Advisors

David Frum

David Frum is a Canadian-American journalist whose politically conservative perspective has shaped the reporting and editorial stances of some of the world’s most prominent news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, National Post, New York Times, Daily Telegraph and CNN.

After earning a law degree from Harvard University, Mr. Frum worked as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. In 2000, he was appointed to serve President George W. Bush as a speechwriter on economics. In 2009, Mr. Frum launched a dynamic political website aimed at attracting younger readers. In 2012, that site was merged into The Daily Beast, where Mr. Frum continues blogging.

He is also the author of seven books, including his first novel, Patriots, which was published in April 2012.