08/21/11 Dane Schiller

Century of Lies

Kenneth Anderson, author "How to Change Your Drinking - A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol" + Okla state Senator Constance Johnson & Dane Schiller reporter with Houston Chronicle

Audio file


Century of Lies / August 21, 2011


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I am Dean Becker. I want to thank a couple of folks for helping us here at the mother ship meet our pledge goals. I want to thank Houston NORML, Houston Cancer Doctor Richard and John from Palm Harbor, Florida. With their help we almost doubled our commitment.

Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our guest but a bit later we’re going to hear from Oklahoma Senator Connie Johnson as well as a reporter from the Houston Chronicle, Dane Schiller. I want to read from our guest’s book. He’s stating in here:

“We have the need to recognize substance use and abuse in our society. This is increasing rapidly and more people require realistic harm reduction oriented help. This is not popular - even an acceptable truism in the United States, despite every day that our larger, political and public health policies are meaningless or worse counter-productive. HAMS is for the large majority of substance users who have problems and remain unserved by our current “Alice in Wonderland” approaches – the often unacknowledged majority.”

And, with that, I want to welcome the author of “How to Change Your Drinking – A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol.” Kenneth Anderson, are you there sir?

KENNETH ANDERSON: Hello, Dean. Can you hear me?

DEAN BECKER: I hear you just fine. Kenneth, I want to thank you for this book. It has some truisms in here that need to be recognized very much so across this country.

KENNETH ANDERSON: Thank you, very much, for having me on your show.

DEAN BECKER: In the show we just completed I was talking about that I have now 26 years without a drink. That has worked for me but, in some cases, some people find that it is possible to drink in moderation but they do need to change their habits, right?

KENNETH ANDERSON: Absolutely. We are a free-of-charge, peer-led support group for people who want to make any positive change in their drinking habits from safer drinking to reduced drinking to quitting alcohol altogether. What we find is that small steps can lead to big changes and a lot of people are, you know, they’re willing to make some small steps. They don’t want to make the big changes right away. But, if you can engage people to making small steps they get encouraged. They want to make more positive changes and the majority of people will more likely get better going a little at a time than by quitting all at once.

DEAN BECKER: Right and there is that situation where those in authority demand total abstinence and therefor when somebody slips up they are led to feel like they have failed. When the truth may be told they have made some progress. Your response.

KENNETH ANDERSON: Absolutely. The more traditional and old-fashioned type of treatment programs for alcoholism tended very much to shame people and very much like, you know, “If you have one drink you lose all your abstinent time and you’re back where you started from.” And this has found to be not very productive. It’s much better to encourage people and to praise them for making positive changes; “You abstained a whole week from alcohol. Now you drank one day. Now you can get started again. Abstain for more and abstain for another week. So you didn’t lose that whole week, you just had this little slip up. So you can keep going.”

DEAN BECKER: I have seen, over the years…like when I first quit I went to Alcoholics Anonymous for some several months. I don’t remember exactly. I don’t think I ever got my 6-month coin. But, the fact of the matter is, I started telling people how I was substituting the use of cannabis for my very excessive drinking and I was told that that was a “no-no” and I wasn’t wanted at those meetings. Your response.

KENNETH ANDERSON: That’s very common. Many people have reported it to me that when they have used marijuana as a substitute for alcohol and they’ve talked about it at AA meetings, they’ve gotten very negative responses. They’ve been told they’re not sober. They’ve been told to leave until they quit the marijuana.

But the research actually tells us just the opposite story. Dr. Amanda Ryman at the University of California, Berkeley has published a paper in Harm Reduction Journal in 2009 about studies in cannabis substitutions for alcoholism and other addictions and it was found to be very successful. She’s still doing more ongoing work.

Before this, Dr. Tod Mikuriya, also in California, had studies…he’s passed away recently…but he prescribed, for quite a while, medical marijuana for people with alcohol dependence and found them very successful at staying away from alcohol when they were able to use the marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: And, as I said, it’s worked for me for 26 years. Before that there was car wrecks, there was fights, there was traffic tickets…the list goes on. And since that point in time – none of the above. So I think I have proven that point.

Now let’s talk about … Here in chapter one you talk about why people over drink. There are reasons behind that, right?

KENNETH ANDERSON: There are lots of reasons. Many people have anxiety or depression or panic or social phobia and they actually use alcohol as a coping mechanism. At first it works pretty well and then it starts having more negative consequences and pretty soon it starts to turn into a nightmare for them and so they need to find some way to change their drinking habits. Some people quit, some people cut back, some will substitute cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: In my case I very much believed in the euphemism, whatever, that I think I heard first in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that I was one of those that when I had a drink – that drink wanted another drink and it just … The day after I quit I automatically went into the convenience store, bought a pack of Marlboros and a tall boy of Coors and I got into the car and popped the top and realized, “Wait a minute, I quit this.” And I threw it in the trash. It’s not that easy for most folks is it?

KENNETH ANDERSON: It is not. I learned to say one thing…as I said, marijuana substitution, cannabis substitution is very successful for many people. It’s not for everyone. I, myself personally, have not smoked cannabis in decades because I have bad side effects so I’m not speaking because I personally want to use cannabis. But there is so many people that I have known that have come to my organization for help and they say, “Well, I can’t drink anymore because I have liver problems.” And we say, “Well, cannabis won’t hurt your liver.” Or they’re having withdrawals from alcohol which can be very dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly and cannabis withdrawal does not have that kind of withdrawal.

There are other people who get in fights in bars when they drink. Cannabis mellows people out. It doesn’t lead them to become aggressive or start fights. So for these people they find cannabis to be a much better substitute than alcohol and it keeps them away from a whole mired of problems that they would otherwise have if they continued with alcohol.

DEAN BECKER: In this book there are means where you can kind of outline your problem. You provide charts and questionnaires and so forth where you can kind of picture what your habit is and then means by which you can begin to change it. Not necessarily pull the plug in one day but change it, right?

KENNETH ANDERSON: Absolutely. We have many worksheets and you don’t have to do them all. We encourage people to find the element of the program that appeals to them the most and start with that.

You don’t have to do everything. We don’t have steps. We have 17 elements in our program. You can do them in any order. They are all optional. You can just do one and if it works for you…for example, charting your drinks, writing down the number of drinks that you have each day in terms of measured standard drinks. Some people find this is the only thing they need to do to change their drinking. It works for them and once they start doing this they manage, in a short period of time, to get their drinking under control. And, if that’s all you need, that’s good.

If you need more things there are many other exercises and worksheets that people can use to change their drinking habits.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Folks, once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Kenneth Anderson. He’s the author of “How to Change Your Drinking – A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol.”

Now you have set up an organization, HAMS, why don’t you tell us what that’s about and maybe how folks can learn more about the work you’re doing.

KENNETH ANDERSON: The acronym HAMS…the H is for Harm reduction. The A is for Abstinence from alcohol. The M is for Moderate drinking and the S is for Support because we are a support group for any positive change – moderate drinking, quitting altogether, abstinence or being safer in the form of harm reduction.

Our website is http://hamsnetwork.org. We have online support groups. And, in particular, I wanted to mention that we have some specialized online support groups too. We have a marijuana maintenance support group called CATS which stands for Cannabis for Alcohol Treatment Support group. This is a yahoo group that people can join if they want to talk about substituting marijuana for alcohol.

The place to go on our website http://hamsnetwork.org/mm - mm for marijuana maintenance. It will give you links to our yahoo group. It will give you links to our facebook group about cannabis substitution and a lot of information about cannabis substitution on that page.

DEAN BECKER: OK. You’ve got a chart here, Alcohol Drinking Level and Risk. You’ve got very high risk for men = 20 drinks a day and then alcohol abstinence, of course, is 0. You’ve listed from healthy drinking, 1 or 2 (no risk) maybe 3 or 4 and low risk is 5 – 7.

I was a 1 or 2 beers per hour kind of guy. Never was drunk, never was really sober. It was, for me…one of the ways to escape the addiction, written in here, is to go off the hard liquor and maybe move to beer. I was never able to drink much scotch or anything else because I would fall out on the floor. I guess what I’m getting at here is that the risk, the impact on the individual varies quite a bit, doesn’t it?

KENNETH ANDERSON: It varies a great deal. Some people can stop drinking hard liquor and switch over to beer and that’s enough to help them cut down and that works for them. Other people find that that’s no sufficient. Some people have to severely limit their intake by saying, “I will drink one day per week. I will not touch alcohol the other 6 days. This is pretty much my plan. I will abstain from alcohol 5 or 6 days per week because I just have to otherwise it gets out of control and I feel bad. I feel really nasty inside.”

DEAN BECKER: I hear you. Maybe physically and maybe a little mentally there. I understand. Again, we’re speaking with Mr. Kenneth Anderson. He’s the author of “How to Change Your Drinking”.

Ken, I look here at some of the risk ranking and some of the things that people do to themselves or to others. A couple of them – drunk driving, unsafe sex with strangers, drunk dialing or even drunk emails, right?

KENNETH ANDERSON: There are many different risky behaviors that people engage in. One thing harm reduction encourages people to do is to rank their risks. To realize that some harms are much worse than others. Drinking and driving is a really dangerous thing even if you don’t kill somebody doing that. You could get arrested. A DUI these days will cost you a fortune. It’s really not worth it. So we strongly encourage people to avoid the most risky behaviors like drinking and driving.

If you get drunk and call your friends on the phone, maybe that’s not so bad. The next day they might say, “Well you were kind of obnoxious on the phone last night” but it’s a lower risk.

So we encourage people more to concentrate on how this behavior…of course, if you get drunk and call your employer on the phone and tell him what you think of him and it’s not too complimentary – that could be high risk.

So it’s different for different people.

DEAN BECKER: I think about …you know, I was thinking of the things I used to do….the fights, the traffic tickets, the car wrecks…but I think more than anything was the lack of civility towards people I dealt with and especially my family. One gets where you lose track of what you really care about too often when you’re using alcohol, right?


DEAN BECKER: Ken, we’ve got just about 2 minutes left here and I want to turn it over to you to tell folks a little bit more about the book. And, again, it’s “How to Change Your Drinking – A Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol.” And it’s written by Mr. Kenneth Anderson. I highly recommend it. Many of us, probably most of us, have a family member who could benefit from this book. Closing thoughts there, Ken.

KENNETH ANDERSON: We published our book in conjunction with Amazon so we prefer that you buy from Amazon because they will give our organization more money on the book sales.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s watch…this is Pacifica so that’s enough there. But, yeah, you can get it from Amazon. Again, is there a website that you’d like to recommend?

KENNETH ANDERSON: Yes. Our website is http://hamsnetwork.org

DEAN BECKER: Ken Anderson, I appreciate you being with us. We’re going to wrap it up there. I think it’s a book that should be read. Drinking impacts nearly every family in America. It’s something we need to get a better handle on.

Mr. Kenneth Anderson, thank you so much.

KENNETH ANDERSON: Thank you for having me.



SINGER: We are the pot police. With each arrest we bring peace. We fight eternal war so you can never score. Yes we are the pot police.


DEAN BECKER: You know it didn’t get a lot of national attention but there’s been a story breaking in Oklahoma where a gentleman who was busted for drugs some 17 years ago has had his parole board look at his sentence, his life without parole sentence. Oklahoma Senator Constance Johnson had a say to that parole board as well.

If you will, please, tell the audience what’s going on with this gentleman, Larry Yarbrough, his situation before the parole board.

CONSTANCE JOHNSON: Mr. Yarbrough’s case came before the board. One of the board members who had been on there previously when he received a unanimous commutation in 2002 was re-appointed about a month ago and had a hearing this past Wednesday, August the 17th at the Hillside Correctional Facility in Oklahoma City.

We have been promoting a letter writing campaign to the board and the Governor urging them to commute this sentence. Urging them to exercise their power as the board to commute this sentence and we were successful. They commuted the sentence to 42 years which essentially means that he will no longer be in prison for life for a crime that he committed 17 years ago involving 3 marijuana joints and an ounce of cocaine.

He has served 17 years, has been a model prisoner. Even after the disappointment of getting unanimously approved in 2002 and turned down by the Governor, he still turned his time of incarceration into a time of giving back and serving others.

He trained guide dogs for people who are disabled. He has hosted a variety of fundraisers for domestic abuse, for women in domestic violence shelters. And just generally been a person who has given back in spite of his own situation.

His case, for me, was very timely because I had offered legislation in 2009 that never got a hearing in the Oklahoma State Senate on exactly what happened. My legislation would have required the Pardon and Parole board to not only review his but 47 other cases of Life Without Parole for drug crimes in Oklahoma.

It would have eliminated that center off of the books and definitely because this point in our state’s circumstances – we are facing budget crisis – and are spending an average of $23,000 a year to lock up 48 people for many times something that …other people are getting sentences that allow them to be paroled.

So there’s the issue of unfairness at these centers but the biggest issue we’re looking at is the cost to Oklahoma of continuing to sentence people and to continuing to maintain the 48 people already been sentenced.

DEAN BECKER: Senator Johnson, the courage that you show in just speaking these rather obvious truths is resonating a bit in Oklahoma and around this country that it is time to rethink some of these laws that were crafted decades ago and to determine their relevance to our modern era, correct?

CONSTANCE JOHNSON: Yes, that is exactly what we’re talking about. The process for bringing about that change is definitely in the hands of the people at this point. And, like I said, the bill that I proposed in prior years have never been heard. So we have re-introduced that concept this year, Senate Bill 986, and Larry Yarbrough’s case just happens to be good send off for this advocacy drive that we’re going to be pushing to get the legislature to actually take action on this policy change.

Yeah, it’s time. It costing too much and it’s only going to cost more. We know that there are people who are incarcerated likely have relatives that are incarcerated so it’s become generational. And in Larry Yarbrough’s case is was definitely the way it was headed. He got a son who’s in prison and he’s got a grandson who’s in the pipeline.

So all we can see in the future is these incarcerations are going to continue to accrue because we have these antiquated laws that really put into effect as a way of demonizing what we feel is a problem with addiction in Oklahoma.

Of the 10 cases that I heard while listening to the Pardon and Parole board proceedings, 8 of them were drug-related. But again, none of them carried a Life sentence like Mr. Yarbrough’s. His case is the Poster Child case for the legislation that we’re hoping to get through the system, through the process in Oklahoma this time.

DEAN BECKER: Senator Johnson I want to thank you for taking time to speak with us. I’ll share this with my audience. Is there a website where folks might learn more about this or anywhere you’d like to point folks?

CONSTANCE JOHNSON: What we want people doing right now is writing to the Governor of the State of Oklahoma a letter saying, “Please accept the board’s recommendation to commute Larry Yarbrough’s Life Without Parole’s sentence to 42 years.” That’s a simple statement. At this point we’re trying to get 10,000 letters going to the Governor of the State of Oklahoma to demonstrate the peoples’ power in determining these type of policy issues.

Address the letter to Governor Mary Fallin, Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. We want 10,000 letters in there.

DEAN BECKER: Senator Johnson, I will do my part to let folks know and to encourage them to write that letter as well. I want to again stress the point that there have been so few elected officials willing to touch this so-called “third rail” and I thank you for having done so.

CONSTANCE JOHNSON: I’m blessed to have the opportunity. It’s a whole coalition of people way beyond me that are making this thing happen. It’s kind of like the stars all lined up in this moment and this is for Larry Yarbrough and this is for our state and country. So I’m blessed to be able to be a part of this. Thank you so much.



DEAN BECKER: Criminals get so emboldened, Rip you off thinking you’re holding. Can’t tell the policeman what you know. Got no recourse through the law. Bad guy duct tape and beat you. They just look for that easy score. They will rob, rape and kill you because we got no recourse to the law.


DEAN BECKER: So I woke this morning and I check out the Houston Chronicle like I always do and I see a bold headline, “Cartels Lure South Texas Officers to the Dark Side.” It was written by the Chronicle’s Dane Schiller. Here to tell us a little more about that is Mr. Dane Schiller himself. Welcome. What’s this about, Dane?

DANE SCHILLER: What we’ve got here is lawman after lawman after lawman selling his badge and going to prison for a real long time. It seems that we’ve heard about this going on in Mexico for a long time and the United States but we’ve got a spike, I guess you’d call it.

DEAN BECKER: Dane, 9 charged or in prison over drugs or guns in the past 16 months is kind of the sub-heading of the story. Let’s talk about those 9. Who are they?

DANE SCHILLER: We’ve got police officers, sheriff deputies, constables all of them concentrated between the area of Laredo and Brownsville down there on the southern-most tip of Texas and Mexico. Some of them were pulled in by family members. One, in particular, comes from a law enforcement family and he pulled some of the others into the darkness.

You’ve got men that have used their patrol cars to escort cocaine across cities. They’ve used computers to check databases to find law enforcement vehicles. They’ve used their connections to try and get military-style weapons to sell in Mexico. They’ve used their radios to track some their law enforcement personnel to keep loads clear.

You name it – they’ve done it. They’ve used their badges, their cars, their uniforms, their contacts to help the traffickers.

DEAN BECKER: This is a stain on the reputation of law enforcement. This is not just in south Texas, this is happened in Houston on occasion. We’ve had HPD officers in uniform driving their patrol car hauling loads of drugs across town.

What can be done, do you think, or will something be done to stop this corruption?

DANE SCHILLER: I’ve heard repeatedly from law enforcement officers, as you point out, all over the state that as long as there’s the drugs and the money this is going to continue. There’s no way to stop it on practical terms. What can you do when you’ve got your police force they say they can do better background checks during hiring. They can see who people are related to. They can require polygraph exams. They can require follow-up polygraph exams, regular polygraph exams – that sort of thing.

But when it comes down to it…you know, most law enforcement officers, obviously, are not dirty. But they say they’ve got to do a better job in some instances of finding people with the right character at “the end of the day.” It’s up to that person to make the decision of what they want to do and no amount of checks and balances could stop them if they’ve got the desire to go to that side of things.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and the dark side, indeed. 40,000 dead, some say, in Mexico because of this policy. We’ve been speaking with Mr. Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle. Dane, any other comments you’d like to make?

DANE SCHILLER: I’d just like to say that it struck me as I was going through these cases and talking with people involved in these cases how, for instance, here we’ve got 9 men that had pretty decent jobs, pretty decent careers, they were respected in their communities, it seems, and they got greedy, a little greedy, a lot greedy and now there are looking at 6, 7, 10, 20, 30 years in federal prison without the possibility of parole.

You got to ask yourself, “What is all this about? Was any of it worth it? Where’s it headed?”


DEAN BECKER: Alright, I want to thank Dane Schiller and all the good folks at the Chronicle. They get it. They are one of the most anti-prohibitionist newspapers in the country, if not in the world these days.

Let’s talk about what give the Drug War life. You know it is fear. And fear could make this drug war last forever. You know…why all the fear? What’s the purpose of the fear? I think most of you folks are smart enough to know that it’s multi-faceted but it’s mostly for control of the people. When you are afraid you are willing to look to Big Brother for help and in return you’re willing to give more taxes for a good plan. More of your liberty if you’re sure it’s for a good reason.

Well, we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of 20 years of Miami Vice reruns and movies like Scar Face, Traffic and Training Day. We’ve been inundated with now highly discredited stories of PCP users stronger than Godzilla, crack babies with no possible future, pot smokers that support terrorism.

A couple years back the government was found to be involved in writing the scripts for certain television programs that showcased their anti-drug messages. He government is certainly involved in everything the press will let them get away with in demonizing drug reformers like me, discrediting scientific studies that disprove government hype and making new lies to cover the holes in their previous lies.

Reality is really what’s at stake here. It starts with marijuana and goes right up to the newest part of the Drug War – the war of terror. You know guys, there’s no justification for this. Please visit our website, http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org