Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is proposing a dramatic restructuring of the federal government’s workforce, in part by eliminating certain agencies like the FBI. But, at the same time, he wants to keep and significantly expand the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) despite having criticized the broader war on drugs.
The 38-year-old presidential hopeful—who has voiced support for legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing certain psychedelics—detailed his plan to fire about 75 percent of federal workers and shutter key agencies during a recent domestic policy speech.
Legal experts have already challenged the idea that a president holds such unilateral authority. But for drug policy reform advocates who’ve followed Ramaswamy’s candidacy, the fact that DEA would be spared under his plan is sure to raise additional questions.
A white paper on the domestic policy platform, reported earlier by The New York Times, discusses “shutting down the FBI and relocating the 15,000 special agents who solve cases to the U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Agency [sic], and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in the Department of Treasury.”
Ramaswamy said that it’s important to provide that infusion of labor because DEA is “taking on the drug enforcement problems that we have in this country.” But without action to end federal prohibition of marijuana and psychedelics first, the plan could mean increased enforcement of the very laws that Ramaswamy has separately said he wants to change.
The candidate has previously said he’s “not a war on drugs person,” again seeming to conflict with the notion of providing more resources to the primary federal agency responsible for perpetuating that war. Ramaswamy has drawn a drug policy distinction with fentanyl, however, advocating for border policies to prevent illicit opioid trafficking.
During an interview on “Club Random with Bill Maher” last month, Ramaswamy previewed his plan to slash the federal workforce—especially FBI—and build up DEA, which he described as “far more effective on the frontlines of the fentanyl epidemic.” The proposal drew a skeptical reaction from Maher, who has also long decried the failures of the drug war.
“If you’re gonna get rid of an agency why don’t you get rid of that one? The DEA,” Maher said.
“We have laws in this country,” Ramaswamy replied. “So you could debate whether you like the laws or not, but I’m saying, as long as you have the laws, we’re talking about effectiveness here. And my point is the FBI is broken.”
In that same interview, the candidate reiterated his support for federal marijuana legalization, saying the current state-federal conflict on cannabis is “a farce” that allows governments to unfairly target people.
Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and former pharmaceutical executive, has been walking a fine line on drug policy matters. Last month, he lashed out at Fox News over a story that characterized him as being in support of decriminalizing certain “hard drugs.”