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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