Independent French presidential candidate and anti-globalization activist JosÃ© BovÃ© kicked off his campaign Monday by calling for the legalization of marijuana. The call came in his first nationally televised address as a candidate -- the first by any candidate, all 12 of whom participated in a drawing to see when they would get air time.
While BovÃ© said "decriminalize" instead of "legalize," his reference to alcohol -- which is legal in France -- suggests he envisions a similar legal and regulated regime for marijuana. Under current French law, which does not distinguish between "soft" and "hard" drugs, drug possession is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Bove is a farmer and long-time left-leaning anti-globalization activist. He is best known for leading the unauthorized dismantling of a McDonald's restaurant in Millau in 1999 to protest hormone-treated beef. During his address to the nation, he called for the establishment of a leftist political force to challenge the sclerotic official French left and the rising right.
The leading contenders in next week's election are Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, a drug policy hard-liner; Socialist SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal, and centrist FranÃ§ois Bayrou. If the first round fails to produce a clear winner, a run-off will be held May 6. According to a poll released Tuesday, Sarkozy is leading with 28%, Royal has 22%, Bayrou 19%, and hard-right Jean-Marie Le Pen 14%. Bove is in the next tier of candidates, huddled with two others with a mere 2% of the vote. Nevertheless, his activist profile has generated some attention for the issue.