By Joel Warner for International Business Times. BETHESDA, Maryland — Kevin Sabet, the man Salon called the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement, the guy Rolling Stone labeled the No. 1 enemy of marijuana legalization, the 36-year-old political wunderkind whom High Times has declared the devil himself, takes the stage in a sprawling conference hall at the annual conference of the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and gazes with confidence over his audience. But what comes out of the mouth of the founder of the three-year-old nonprofit, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or Project SAM, isn’t typical anti-marijuana rhetoric.
“We cannot be Reefer Madness 2.0,” he tells his audience. “We went overboard.” Sabet doesn’t suggest marijuana is a gateway drug, doesn’t resort to scare tactics like the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” public service announcement from the 1980s. In fact, Sabet agrees with his pro-marijuana opponents on many matters. He’s opposed to harsh drug laws that have long criminalized people – mostly minorities – for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana. He concedes that components of marijuana might hold medical promise and wants the federal government to make it easier to study the plant. And, most strikingly, he concedes the war on drugs was a failure.