In 2014, voters made Alaska the first Republican state to legalize recreational cannabis. However, several communities like North Pole got initiatives on the ballot to prohibit commercial cannabis enterprises within city limits. This prompted protest from the North Pole’s most famous resident, Santa Claus.
“I am an Alaska state-registered medical cannabis patient (Cannabidiol) and have successfully been taking the oil to treat my cancer,” wrote Santa on his Facebook page. “Voting NO [on local prohibition] ensures that I and many other patients can have safe, well-regulated, and local access to a dispensary in North Pole. A gentle reminder from the Bible: ‘But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?’ (1 John 3:17 KJV).”
Santa also told local NBC affiliate KTUU, “I think... in this particular instance [they] are not embracing the spirit of love. I think what they’re doing is engendering hate, which comes from fear.”
Santa Claus, born Thomas O’Conner, legally changed his name in 2005 to assist in his work as an advocate for children, which has included visits from pediatric cancer patients. In 2015, Santa was elected to the local city council as a write-in candidate because, seriously, who would want to run against Santa. Before that, he worked as an emergency-response chaplain, television news director and in law enforcement with the Terrorism Research Communication Center and FEMA’s National Defense Executive Reserve. He’s even an Anglican monk.
“People have taken me to task for medical marijuana because they think it’s a bad image,” the Santa Claus Peace Council prizewinner told The Guardian in 2015. “I think it’s a practical consideration.”
His particular consideration is medical. The 69-year-old Santa was diagnosed with two types of cancer in 2012, and he says medical cannabis helps ease his symptoms. "It sounds ridiculous but it's true. [Cannabis] helps," Mr. Claus told KTUU.
On October 4, 2016, the citizens of North Pole voted in favor of Proposition 7, which approved local cannabis prohibition. Santa, who must now travel to Fairbanks for his medicine, told his Facebook followers, “I’m sad to report that a majority of North Pole voters voted to ban dispensaries in North Pole. Personally, I think that outcome calls into question North Pole’s slogan: ‘Where the Spirit of Christmas Lives Year ‘Round.’”
Santa later added, “Perhaps, it's time for North Pole to do a little soul searching.”
Photo credit: Strotz Photography and Santa Claus’ Facebook page.