Martin Lindner - deputy chairman of the unpopular junior coalition party the Free Democratic Party (FDP) - was offered the choice between a bottle of red wine and a joint by talk show host Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre in a pre-recorded show aired Thursday night.
To his host's delight, Lindner immediately picked up the spliff, gave it a knowing sniff and dismissed it as tobacco before reaching for a lighter to prove his point. Stuckrad-Barre jumped in at this point, explaining the TV studio's smoking ban meant they would have to go outside for Lindner's exploratory toke.
After a long drag outside with the cameras rolling, Lindner decided it was cannabis after all - the possession of which is illegal under German law. “Scandal,” he exclaimed in an off-hand manner.
Watch the clip in question here (in German)
Unsurprisingly, his actions did not slip unseen into the realm of late-night television. Fellow FDP politicians caught a whiff and on Friday distanced themselves from Lindner's little indulgence.
“Publicly downplaying the consumption of marijuana sends out absolutely the wrong signal,” Mechthild Dyckmans, FDP politician responsible for drug policy, told Die Welt daily on Friday.
Filmed on Wednesday night, the show was not live, raising eyebrows and questions from the opposition about why Lindner let the programme go on air.
“He wants to establish the FDP as a fun party,” said Angelika Graf, drug policy spokeswoman for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Smoking cannabis on television was careless behaviour, she added.
Lindner told the Bild daily on Friday that he was more interested in combating the abuse of harder, synthetic drugs and that he had a more relaxed attitude when it came to cannabis.
“I did not experience any feelings of intoxication,” he added. Stuckrad-Barre, meanwhile, said the leading politician was the “ideal guest” for his chat show.