The War on Drugs Is One of Hypocrisy


julie marsh
Photo by Aimee Giese
Upon hearing of the death of Henry Granju, son of blogger Katie Allison Granju, I was deeply saddened. The loss of a child is tragic, no matter what age or circumstances. But upon reading of the seemingly sluggish and apathetic reaction of the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the unsympathetic comments left on news stories about Henry's death, I grew angry.

Yes, Henry was a drug addict. He is not blameless. But in no way do his actions negate the crimes committed against him. Nor do they justify the casual treatment of his case by investigators.

I wish I could be shocked by how Henry's case has been treated by law enforcement, but I'm not. I know two people who each died of an overdose -- in different states, at different times, and in unrelated circumstances. They were from good families in affluent neighborhoods. They had good jobs and friends who loved them. And those who were directly involved in their deaths were never brought to justice.

One was my dear friend Kirsten Petka, whom I met at college freshman orientation. Her mother told me that she was with her boyfriend, who gave her the drugs and then drove around for hours, never seeking help even though she was unresponsive. He blamed her, and the police accepted his side of the story. Although he was also under the influence, there was never an investigation and he was never charged. I don't know how he lives with himself.

Kirsten's story makes it easy for me to believe that the KCSO investigator told Katie Granju: "Unless and until he can get an interview with [Henry] in which [Henry] tells his side of the story, then there is no victim.

No victim. A young woman is dead, but there's no victim. A young man lies in intensive care, struggling to recover from a major brain injury, but there's no victim.

And why isn't there a victim? Because of drugs. As far as law enforcement and the general public are concerned, the fact that these two people were involved with drugs, these crimes are victimless. Had Kirsten died without drugs in her system, her boyfriend would have been a prime suspect. Had Henry been beaten without drugs in his system, the sheriff's office would have issued warrants for the arrest of his suspected attackers.

But forget justice for Kirsten and Henry and their families for a moment. What about the war on drugs? What about those -- politicians, police, and the public -- who rail against drugs and call for harsh penalties on those who buy and sell and use them? Kirsten's case was a wasted opportunity, and it's looking as if Henry's case will turn out the same way. Even if no one cares about Kirsten and Henry, why don't they care about those who sold them or gave them the drugs?

In 2009, we spent $3.76B on domestic drug law enforcement. But I'm hard-pressed to see the impact when those who were involved in Kirsten's and Henry's deaths are still at large, primarily because law enforcement has allowed them to remain so.

Wishing peace and comfort to the Granju family as they take each day as it comes. Wishing continued peace and comfort to the Petka family as they remember their beautiful daughter.


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nonmember avatar Emma Weekly

There is no war, the government set the whole systemup, forget the victoms, they just want thier money for penalties.

Jail em, get more taxes from people for thier care, the vistums of the set up.

lovin... lovinangels

An awful lot of people are making money off this "war" on drugs. It all goes back to Tobacco and lobbyists.

nonmember avatar T Butler

I am sorry for your loss, and the loss the families of your friends must feel. I am sure that the boy friend pays for the loss of a loved one as much as you every day. It is easy to blame this on the drugs but it should be obvious by now that prohibition caused the death of both of these people that you refer to here.

What person would allow someone they love to die beside them and do nothing, one that is more afraid of going to jail than doing the right thing!  Many states are waking up to this and passing laws that allow a person to drop off at a hospital or call an ambulance for someone who has over dosed. These laws are a step in the right direction, but they do not really help someone who is not thinking clearly. What we need is to allow adults to purchase any thing they want and use it without legal repercussions.

When we take the market from criminals and give it to law abiding regulated industries we will see most over dose deaths disappear. When people are not longer afraid to get treatment, many addicts will disappear. When we stop telling kids that marijuana is as bad as cocaine and heroin how do we expect that they will not try hard drugs when they realize what they have been told about marijuana is a lie?

I hope you will look past trying to blame some individuals for situations created by this current societies need to criminalize vices and understand that no one wins when society manufactures criminals.

nonmember avatar Suzanne

I lost a friend under similar circumstances two years ago. His 'friends' didn't call for help because they thought they were protecting him from being prosecuted for drug use, and also quite possibly protecting themselves from the same. That decision cost him his life at the age of 26, and left a six month old baby boy without a father.

The subculture of drug users is almost impossible to infiltrate. Addicts don't trust anyone, even other addicts. And unfortunately law enforcement has bought into this idea that they are a separate entity. Addicts aren't part of the 'public' that they are entrusted to protect. They are the enemy.

I don't think the Knox County Sheriff's Department even cares that Henry Granju died. I really believe that for them he is just another addict, and that he brought it on himself.

nonmember avatar Troy Richardson

I feel so ashamed that I was just reading of this incident on one of Kirsten's best friend's Facebook post. I believe I knew somewhat of Kirsten's passing, but probably blocked it out my concious; whereas, I was still working through the passing of my 33yr old sister, Cyndi, whom had Lupus but had also fought drugs prior to her illness. She was also Kirsten's dance choreographer at Henderson, where Cyndi and myself worked alongside Mr. Stuart for 9 seasons together directing the Spring musicals. When Kirsten came along it was that exhale of comic relief and energy that lit the entire school up. I cannot believe this happened, that she had to go through such a thing, and have a hard time believeing she's actually gone. That smile and raspy voice, rugby polos, turtlenecks, and blonde locks pulled up in the middle was her trademarks , and she moved many people in every corners of her walk. I hope and pray this person's concious one day has him come foward and do what's right..even years later.

God rest your soul, Heidi. I'm sure you're crackin' Him up somewhere up in heaven!

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