By Ned Ehrbar

(CBS NEWS) – Actor Benjamin Bratt has tackled the topic of the War on Drugs onscreen before — from both sides of the conflict — but that didn’t deter him from taking on the role of Robert Alcaino in “The Infiltrator,” opposite Bryan Cranston as an undercover agent.

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The San Francisco-native spoke to CBS News about understanding the humanity of a man who makes his living profiting off human suffering.

This isn’t the first time you’ve dealt with the War on Drugs on screen. “Clear and Present Danger” and “Traffic” come to mind. What has your experience taught you?

Well, first of all the so-called “war on drugs” is a futile effort. When this government mandate was passed back in the Reagan era, it was thought that military force would solve the problem. But when you stop to consider this as an issue of supply and demand — that’s an oversimplification, of course — you’re talking about our country, which has a seemingly ceaseless appetite for drugs, so it’s no small wonder that it’s a huge and intractable problem, one that is not solved with mere force or authoritarian rule. It really is a much more complex issue than any of us lay people can hope to try to solve, let alone the people who are mandated to doing so.

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There’s also the War on Poverty, the War on Terror — it doesn’t seem we have the best track record with declaring war on things.

No, it doesn’t, but unsurprisingly, it has a ring of “we’re taking care of business” to it. There’s a ring of positivity to it that everything’s going to be OK, let the government handle it, we’re launching a war on XY and Z to put those of in society removed from the issue at ease. How effective these plans are — who’s to say? I think the effort has to be applauded, but again I don’t think there are any solutions that are readily at hand.

The full interview at

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