His path to the Ivy League wasn’t always certain. As he explains in a recently uploaded TEDMED talk highlighted by the Washington Post, he was raised in a poor neighborhood in Miami. Growing up, he used and sold drugs. He carried a gun in his car, and he committed small crimes. Along the way, he developed the conviction that the prevalence of crime and dysfunction in his community was a product of widespread drug abuse.
Hart’s life took a turn after he joined the Air Force. He studied neuroscience, and went on to professionally study the drugs that he was convinced were the source of his neighborhood’s social ills. Throughout the course of his research, his views on drugs — and how society should treat drug users — dramatically changed.