As communities across Alaska try to figure out how to handle the new legalized marijuana industry, many are opting out. In October, North Pole voters decided not to allow commercial marijuana businesses within city limits. That decision, however, has been met with disappointment from one of the city's most famous residents: Santa Claus.
Santa Claus, formerly known as Thomas O'Connor, legally changed his name to Santa in 2005. He says the moniker helps with his work as a child advocate.
"It sounds ridiculous but it's true. It helps," Santa says.
He's served as an elected city council member in North Pole for almost a year.
Before that he worked in government, specialising in security and law enforcement.
"Director of the Terrorism Research Communication Center from '78 to '86, and was Chief of Safety and Security for the US Virgin Islands Port Authority, was a member of FEMA's National Defense Executive Reserve," he says.
He worked in law enforcement, but also against certain types of prohibition. Maybe it's not so surprising that his old life is influencing his new one.
Santa is now speaking out against North Pole's Propostition 7, the ballot initiative that banned commercial marijuana.
Santa Claus is also a cancer patient, and he uses marijuana to help ease his symptoms.
"I think they are not in this particular instance are not embracing the sprit of love," he says. "I think what they're doing is engendering hate, which comes from fear."
So for now, Santa will have to grow his own, or travel to nearby Fairbanks to purchase marijuana from a dispensary.
"Cannabis users will not be getting coal in their stocking unless they've done some other thing that might be considered egregious," Santa added.
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