ALS ice bucket challenge: German MP shows ‘green’ credentials in charity video which featured cannabis plant

Green Party leader Cam Oezdemir says it was a pro-legalisation stunt

berlin

Like many other politicians, Cem Oezdemir, the leader of Germany’s environmentalist Green Party, agreed to take part in the “Ice-bucket challenge” – which involves participants dousing themselves with buckets of iced water to raise cash for charity. Mr Oezdemir who is one of the few German MPs of Turkish extraction, had his self-inflicted dousing filmed while standing on a balcony of an apartment overlooking the rooftops of Berlin.

In the film, the Green leader is seen picking up a red plastic bucket full of freezing water, duly pouring the contents over his head and looking mildly stunned by the experience. But next to him is a wispy green plant which, in the process, also receives a copious watering.

Mr Oezdemir’s video appeared on YouTube  prompting near instant media speculation that the wispy green plant on the Berlin balcony might have been an illegal cannabis plant. Under German law, growing cannabis is only legal for drug companies which manufacture medicines containing the substance. Private cultivation is illegal.

Germany’s Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung led the media investigation into the suspected Green dope scandal. The paper sought the advice of the German Hemp Association spokesman Florian Riester who declared that the plant on Mr Oezedmir’s “Ice-bucket” balcony was “clearly illegal” and that the politician could face prosecution. A Berlin police spokesman insisted that “every offence” concerning illegal drugs would be investigated as a matter of course.

But then Mr Oezdemir turned the tables on his media inquisitors and claimed he had deliberately had a cannabis plant pictured to make what he described as a “gentle political statement”. Germany’s Green Party has advocated the legalisation of cannabis for years. “Every citizen over the age of 18 should be free to decide whether they want to consume cannabis,” he insisted. “My party and its members are freedom’s friends.”

Mr Oezdemir is not the first Green politician to gain attention for promoting cannabis consumption. His colleague, the veteran Berlin Green MP Hans-Christian Ströbele, won instant popularity after launching a similar campaign more than a decade ago. 

Yet largely as a result of opposition from conservative MPs in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party attempts to legalise cannabis for all but medical purposes have consistently failed to gain political approval in Germany. It is unlikely that anyone will now be able to establish whether Mr Oezedmir’s “gentle political statement” was genuine or merely a ruse designed to help him escape embarrassment and possible prosecution.

The Green Party has refused to reveal whether the Berlin apartment used for the film sequence belongs to Mr Oezdemir, making legal action against him highly unlikely.

And, as Germany’s Bild newspaper pointed out, as an MP, Mr Oezdemir enjoys immunity from prosecution anyway.

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