Typically, politicians try to avoid smoking marijuana on live television.
Smoking a joint on live television is tough to deny. But that is the predicament that one German politician finds himself in after he took a drag off a joint during a late-night talk show on Thursday night. He says he didn't believe that it was real marijuana, but the show's host says it was.
US President Bill Clinton, famously, didn't inhale -- at least that's what he said. But even as most of the country assumed he was not being entirely forthcoming about his possible marijuana consumption, there was no way to check. There was no proof.
A German politician this week, however, is having a decidedly more difficult time with his denials. After all, Martin Lindner, the deputy head of the pro-business Free Democrats in parliament, appears to have taken a drag off a joint on live television.
On Thursday evening, Lindner was a guest on Benjamin von Stuckrad Barre's talk show, "Stuckrad Late Night," when the host produced what he said was a joint. Lindner grabbed it to have a sniff and suggested that it wasn't real. Barre urged him to test it -- which he then did on a balcony outside the studio, on camera.
"I took a drag to refute the host's claim that it was a real joint," Lindner told mass-circulation tabloid Bild. "I don't know what it really was, but I didn't feel any intoxicating effect." Both the show's production company and Stuckrad-Barre himself have confirmed that it was indeed a real joint. "Mr. Lindner showed himself to be the ideal talk show guest," the host told Bild.
Lindner's party is the junior coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government. Still, it is unclear whether there will be any political repercussions. While the possession of small amounts of the drug has been decriminalized in some parts of Germany, including Berlin, outright legalization remains controversial. Indeed, both the FDP and Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats came out strongly in January against a Left Party proposal to allow the establishment of marijuana cafes.
Some elements within the FDP, however, would like to see marijuana made legal. The party's youth wing distributed a statement on Friday calling for the drug to be placed on the same level as other "soft" drugs such as alcohol and nicotine. Germany's drug commissioner Mechthild Dyckmans, likewise a member of the FDP, was not impressed however. Lindner's televised caper, she said, "sends the wrong signal."