Seattle’s The Stranger just published the final installment of a great series on the human and economic costs of the drug war that started with an investigation into mysteriously tainted cocaine and ended with a call for the legalization of everything. The feature is a monster but if you’re at all, at all interested in this topic it’s a must read. A long excerpt:

Tobacco use was responsible for 435,000 deaths in the United States in 2000, according to a 2004 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association. The same year, all illegal drug use was responsible — directly and indirectly — for 17,000 deaths. When I started working on this series, I thought, like most moderate liberals: Yes, legalize pot, that’s obvious. But heroin and cocaine and meth and the rest — aren’t those drugs kind of dangerous?

The more hours I spent in the library, in research laboratories, in alleyways, and on couches interviewing addicts, dealers, policymakers, law enforcement officials, lawyers, doctors, and academics, the more I came to agree with Stamper — as well as former Mexican president Vicente Fox, former UK drug czar Bob Ainsworth, Spain’s former (and, to date, longest-serving) prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, and members of Mexico’s Social Democratic Party, who have been attacked by anonymous gunmen and Molotov cocktails after campaigning for legalization.

The mystery of why a cattle-deworming drug called levamisole is being cut into the world’s cocaine supply is just a footnote in the drug war’s century-long history of corruption, violence, addiction, and doom.

We will always have drug users, drug abusers, and drug producers — just like we’ll always have casual drinkers, alcoholics, and distilleries. We cannot change that. What we can change is the level of violence and cruelty associated with the drug trade by elevating it to the legal market, where business disputes are settled with the rule of law instead of with machine guns and chain saws.

The only way out is to legalize — and regulate — everything. Pot, heroin, cocaine, meth:everything.

The piece is 6,000 words and every word is worth reading — it’s a masterpiece of alt-weekly journalism. You can find it here. Click. Go. Read. It’s worth a 1/2 hour of your time.