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.
Chief of Staff & Sr. Policy Advisor
Luke Niforatos is the Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor at SAM. Prior to SAM, he spent his career working in nonprofit community healthcare. Luke worked for and consulted with many behavioral health-integrated Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout the state of Colorado, improving efficiency and implementing new regulations as well as IT infrastructure. After several years of success in management and driving over $30 million in revenue at hospitals such as Centura Health, Luke founded two digital health companies. Having lived in Colorado during legalization, he has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of lax marijuana policies. This experience inspired Luke to work for a smart marijuana policy free of commercialization and normalization. He is experienced in public speaking at events and with the media and believes in empowering others to fight for truth. Luke graduated from the University of Denver and now resides in Virginia with his wife and daughter. See Luke representing SAM and standing up to Big Marijuana.
Garth Van Meter
SAM Director of Legislative Affairs
Garth Van Meter is Director of Legislative 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.
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.
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’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 serves as director of professional relations for an adult substance-addiction treatment hospital. 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 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.
Dr. Sion Kim Harris
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.
Communications and Outreach Associate
Coming from a legacy of civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C, Will Jones is dedicated to continuing the heritage of promoting the healthy progression of the nation, specifically in the African-American community. Partnering with national drug policy advisors and leaders around Washington, D.C., in 2014 Jones founded Two Is Enough (TIE DC) to foster progress in drug education and expose and combat the negative social, health, and economic consequences of legal and illegal drugs.
Mr. Jones has been featured on a wide variety of TV and radio outlets talking about marijuana policy including Howard Vocal Point WHUT, Fox Business –The John Stossel Show, WUSA9, NBC4, WTOP, Reuters TV, TheTomiLahren Show with OAN News, The Ingrahm Angle – Fox, Telemundo DC, Voice Of America, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, CBS, WNEW, Radio France, BBC World, Dutch TV, Al Jazeera, ICTV Channel (Ukraine), Marc Steiner Show, C-span.
He has also been covered in a variety of print outlets as well including the Washington Post, Washington Times, Washingtonian, Washington Informer, WAMU, VOX, The Telegraph,CBS DC, Afro- American, Huffington Post, Fusion, DC1st, Associated Press.
He is currently working on his MPA at George Washington University. He graduated Cum Laude from Columbia International University (CIU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Business and was inducted into the CIU Delta Epsilon Chi Honor society. Mr. Jones has served in various leadership roles and has been a recipient of scholarships and awards for leadership and societal change including: delegate to the South Carolina Student Legislature, president of the CIU African-American Student Association, recipient of CIU Presidential and Leadership scholarships.
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.
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.
Currently, Dr. Miller is the president and founder of MillerBio, a firm dedicated to behavioral pharmacology research and consulting. Her areas of research include genetic loci associated with risk for psychosis, the biochemical basis for major mental disorder, biomarkers of psychiatric state and suicidality, and animal models of pharmacotherapy.
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.
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.
A leading drug and alcohol addiction expert. He is a licensed therapist with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with years of experience running two successful treatment centers, and is the founder of The Hills Treatment Center.
Dr. Samuels specializes in the treatment of mood and addictive disorders, love addiction and substance abuse intervention. Dr. Samuels has been clean and sober for 29 years from heroin and cocaine addiction.
As the son of a prominent New York state political figure, Howard’s private battle with addiction became public when his drug busts in 1969 and 1971 hit the front pages of the New York Post and New York Daily News, and were covered in Newsweek and Rolling Stone magazine.
As a columnist with The Huffington Post, Howard comments on the epidemic crisis of drugs and alcohol in America. His testifying before the California Senate Public Safety Commission resulted in legislation prohibiting the sale to minors of the dangerous hallucinogenic Salvia.
Howard is widely sought after by network television shows such as ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s The Today Show, CBS, CNN, Entertainment Tonight and many more, as well as syndicated radio programs for his professional and personal experience with recovery.
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.
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.
Krishna Upadhya, M.D., M.P.H., is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at DC Children’s National Hospital. In addition to providing clinical care to youth, she is actively involved in teaching, research and advocacy.
Dr. Upadhya’s research focuses on expanding access to high quality reproductive healthcare and reducing unplanned pregnancy. She serves as Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. She is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence. She received her MD with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Public Health from Boston University. Following medical school she completed her residency and fellowship training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She served on the faculty in Adolescent Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center for two years..
Dr. Upadhya provides comprehensive primary care and subspecialty consultations to adolescents and has particular clinical interests in the areas of general reproductive health, menstrual disorders and teen pregnancy. In addition to providing clinical care, Dr. Upadhya is actively involved in teaching and research. Her research focuses on adolescent reproductive health and prevention of unintended pregnancy. Dr. Upadhya has presented her work at international meetings and has published articles on adolescent health and research in both the lay press and medical literature. She is an active member of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and serves on SAHM Advocacy Committee.
Dr. Aaron Weiner
Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy
The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008–and his brave openness about his own health challenges.
The son of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, he decided to leave Congress not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Kennedy is also the co-author of “A Common Struggle,” which outlines both his personal story and a bold plan for the future of mental health in America.
Patrick lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy, and their four children.
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.
Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey
Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey was the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) during the Clinton Administration. He was confirmed to the position by unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate and served as a member of the President’s Cabinet and the National Security Council for drug-related issues.
He currently serves as a national security and terrorism analyst for NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC News. Following government service, McCaffrey served as the Bradley Distinguished Professor of International Security Studies and then as an Adjunct Professor of International Security Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY.
McCaffrey graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He holds a Master of Arts degree in civil government from American University. He attended the Harvard University National Security Program as well as the Business School Executive Education Program. McCaffrey is a member Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society dedicated to the recognition and promotion of academic excellence in all disciplines. In 2010, he was honored as a Distinguished Graduate by the West Point Association of Graduates at the United States Military Academy. He was also inducted into the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Ft Benning.
Prior to confirmation as the National Drug Policy Director, McCaffrey served as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces Southern Command coordinating national security operations throughout Latin America. During his military career, he served overseas for thirteen years and completed four combat tours. He commanded the 24th Infantry Division (Mech) during the Desert Storm 400-kilometer left hook attack into Iraq.
McCaffrey served as the three star assistant to General Colin Powell and supported the Chairman as the JCS advisor to the Secretary of State and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
At retirement from active duty, he was the most highly decorated four-star general in the U.S. Army. He twice received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest medal for valor. He was also awarded two Silver Stars for valor, and received three Purple Heart medals for wounds sustained in combat.