Federal Judge upholds Duluth Rule on City License for Synthetic Drugs

carlson0218_500pxA federal magistrate judge in Duluth, Minnesota upheld a local ordinance requiring Jim Carlson, owner of Last Place on Earth, and other retailers to carry a city license for selling synthetic drugs, which includes many rigorous regulations.  The ordinance went into effect on Thursday, July 11.

Carlson filed suit on Friday, arguing the law is unconstitutional because it would force him to incriminate himself, arguing that the city license will violate his fifth amendment rights.

It seems that Carlson has flipped his self-serving position on this issue.  In the video below, he says that “this product should be regulated” and labeled with “what chemicals they are using and what is the strength.”

City attorneys argued that the license doesn’t require them to incriminate themselves, but merely apply for a license and the ordinance only regulates legal synthetic drugs.

“There’s no constitutional right to continue to do illegal activity,” said City Attorney Gunnar Johnson. “And if that is what’s going on here, there’s no constitutional right to that.”


Carlson has been one of the biggest offenders of retail synthetic drug sales and kept himself out of jail for years.

However, it looks like the law has caught up with the endlessly cocky Carlson.  In June, he was even so kind as to offer to stop selling drugs if the charges were dropped.  Of course, he wants his money back.  The feds have seized millions of Carlson’s hard earned money.

“Besides not selling the product we’ve agreed to quit fighting it,” Carlson said. “I’m the one that’s allowed people to keep selling it because of fighting all these different ordinances and laws and a lot of people go by what I’m doing. If I’m selling, they’re selling. If I’m not, they probably wouldn’t.”

Carlson is currently under federal indictment and waiting for trial.

In December of 2012, Carlson, his girlfriend Lava Marie Haugen, 32, both 

Carlson's son Joseph James Gellermanof Superior, his son, Joseph James Gellerman, 34, and former store employee, Jamie Paul Anderson, 24, have pleaded not guilty in response to an indictment on 54 counts of violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act.The indictment states that between March 2011 and September 2012, Carlson, Haugen, Gellerman and Anderson conspired to obtain and sell through the Last Place on Earth items misbranded as incense, potpourri, bath salts, exotic skin treatments, glass cleaner and watch cleaner. The products were not identified as drugs, though they were intended to be consumed by humans to affect the functioning of the body, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.

The indictment states that between March 2011 and September 2012, Carlson, Haugen, Gellerman and Anderson conspired to obtain and sell through the Last Place on Earth items misbranded as incense, potpourri, bath salts, exotic skin treatments, glass cleaner and watch cleaner. The products were not identified as drugs, though they were intended to be consumed by humans to affect the functioning of the body, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.

The government said in the indictment that if it gains convictions, it will attempt to seize $1,343,352, $1,201,522, $387,488 and $64,950 — almost $3 million in total — from four bank accounts.

After The Last Place on Earth was raided on July 25, 2012,  The Food and Drug Administration along with the United States Attorney’s Office asked the public to come forward to explain negative reactions caused by synthetic drugs sold at the store.

Click here to report negative side effects to the FDA if you’re experiencing these effects as a result of drug purchased from Last Place on Earth.

Earlier this year, Carlson offered free “Last Place on Earth” tattoos to willing participants as a promotional gimmick.

Synthetic Drugs Seller

Also in the news, a Duluth woman was recently cited for 5th Degree Assault in an incident that left the owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop injured.

34-year-old Candice Drift was cited shortly after the incident on Wednesday night.

Owner Jim Carlson now has stitches in his chin and says he has a broken shoulder bone.

The incident was caught on Carlson’s surveillance video. Carlson says Drift is one of the 10-20 people that he doesn’t allow in Last Place on Earth because of past behavior problems.

“To be honest with you, with his clientele, the people that go in and out of there and the erratic behavior that we’ve seen.   I’m surprised that things like that don’t happen more often to him,” Ramsay said. “It sure happens to enough other innocent people, victims of synthetic users.”

The woman accused of assaulting him wrote a letter to the editor published in the News Tribune in April commending him. In that letter, the woman wrote: “Much love and respect to Carlson. Stand proud, and stay strong, my friend. Your heart is filled with gold.”

“She’s a wonderful person when she’s not drinking, but you get too much alcohol and some pills and some of these people, they go nuts,” Carlson said.

We wonder how Jim feels to be on the receiving end of “nuts,” for a change.  Local families and loved ones have been reporting that their loved ones have become violent and experienced horrible side effects as a result of the drugs that Carlson has been selling.

Nearby merchants have complained that Last Place customers who hang out in front of the store interfere with their business and the city says the business is a public nuisance.  Reports of “crazy” behavior has plagued downtown Duluth since Last Place on Earth started selling synthetic drugs.

Additionally, the city of Deluth, Minnesota, filed a civil ‘Notice of Nuisance’ injunction in an attempt to thwart Carlson’s ability to sell synthetic drugs.  City Attorneys argued the court should take action, citing 2,000 police calls to Last Place in 2012, a cost of 100,000 dollars to the taxpayer.  This doesn’t include the medical and mental health costs associated with synthetic drug use, which are usually absorbed by the public.

The city will be using an Aug. 28 surveillance tape outside the store as a piece of evidence in the case.

The tape shows customers heading out and pushing a man into the road.  They then head back and pull him toward the curb before leaving the scene.  The city said the video shows exactly what happens near the business and the city resources that have to respond.

But, Carlson isn’t just responding to legal motions.

Carlson filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Duluth in response for what he called an unlawful raid.

On December 12, Judge Floerke dismissed the lawsuit.

The judge ruled the city did not violate Carlson’s civil rights when it raided his downtown head shop and seized $83,510 in cash, about $250,000 worth of products,  largely synthetic marijuana, and 28 guns.

The judge also denied Carlson’s request to force the return of his cash, retail products and guns.

We couldn’t be happier.

Carlson filed a similar suit against the federal government for their July 2012 raid.

Meanwhile, a newly formed MN House of Representatives select committee held its first hearing in St. Paul on Tuesday.  The committee will study the synthetic drug problem and present possible solutions during the 2014 legislative session.

To the Maximus Foundation  has made legislative recommendations to state legislators.



Popular Synthetics: The Class of 2013

Bath salts.

We’ve definitely been guilty of neglecting the category of synthetic drugs/designer drugs that are not synthetic cannabinoids.   Therefore, we’re very happy to share this article by neuroscientist, Dirk Hanson, who has been a leader in educating us about ‘research chemicals.’

Hanson does a fine job of giving us a short definition of the different categories of ‘research chemicals.’

A huge thank you to Dirk Hanson for all of his contributions that have given us a better understanding of drugs and addiction!  You can find links to his blog below.

Without further ado….

By: Dirk Hanson
Posted: 06 Jul 2013 02:54 PM PDT

Navigating the new alphabet of intoxication

You don’t have to be a molecular chemist to know which of today’s recreational drugs are safe. Wait, I take that back. You DO have to be a molecular chemist to navigate today’s synthetic drug market with anything like a modest degree of safety.

It’s hard not to get nostalgic: Back in the day, you had your pot, you had your acid, your coke, your speed, and your heroin. And that, with the exception of a few freak outriders like PCP, was about that. Baby boomers of today, already losing touch with leading-edge music—Macklemore? Tame Impala?—can now consider themselves officially out of touch when it comes to illegal drugs.

That is, unless they are familiar with psychoactive chemicals beyond mere methamphetamine “bath salt” knockoffs like mephedrone, and cannabis “Spice” look-alikes such as JWH-018. We’re talking about drugs like Bromo-DragonFly, Benzo Fury, and 2C-B.  As Vanessa Grigoriadis writes in New York Magazine: “These drug users imagine themselves as amateur chemists, proto-Walter Whites, sampling and resynthesizing drugs to achieve exactly the state of Continue reading

Stories from the Busts! $51,000,000 . . . and Counting

On June 26, 2013 Federal Agents conducted “Project Synergy,” swooping in to arrest those involved in the retail sales, manufacturing, and distribution of synthetic drugs across the nation and even in foreign countries.

Not only did they seize drugs, they also seized records that tied those involved in the synthetic drug trade to the funneling of funds to the middle east.

This is a wrap-up of some of the stories from those busts.  Please check back, we will be updating this page regularly.

DEA Press Conference




Deputies Arrest 20 In Franklin County During Project Synergy

Posted: Jun 27, 2013 1:39 PM EDTUpdated: Jun 27, 2013 1:46 PM EDT

By: Alex Mazer, Multimedia Content Producer - email

Investigators seized several thousand packages of the illegal drugs, several guns and more than $40,000 in cash while executing five search warrants.

OhioCOLUMBUS, Ohio -The Franklin County Drug Task Force and the Ohio Investigative Unit coordinated together to conduct Project Synergy, a DEA nationwide synthetic narcotics enforcement project.During the project, a total of five search warrants were conducted at various local convenience stores and residences, targeting the sale of synthetic drugs known as Bath Salts and Spice in Franklin County. As a result of the search warrants, investigators seized several thousand packages of the illegal drugs, Continue reading

DEA Confirms Synthetic Drug Profits Funneled to Groups in Middle East!!!!!!


James+Capra+Federal+Law+Enforcement+Officials+6OuCuF8bNeflYesterday, in a press conference announcing Project Synergy, a “global takedown” that national DEA officials said began in December, DEA chief of operations James Capra told reporters that millions of dollars in profits from the drug trafficking were being funneled to groups in the Middle East. While Capra would not be drawn on exactly which groups were involved, citing the ongoing investigation, he strongly hinted that terror networks were involved.

Agents with Project Synergy uncovered a “massive flow” of drug-related proceeds heading to Middle Eastern countries, according to the DEA. “The case and the investigation led to money transfers going to the Middle East,” Bryan said.  (The Times-Picayune Greater New Orleans)

“You have this convergence out there, more so today than ever before, of terror groups funding their operations through the sale of narcotics around the globe,” Capra said.

Those of us that spend our lives following the synthetic drug trade are not at all surprised at these admissions.  However, it’s the first time that we have government confirmation of what we’ve been saying for years.

Two years ago, the percentage of foreign nationals selling synthetic drugs/research chemicals was staggering.  However, we’ve observed the demographics of synthetic drug dealers changing as the Continue reading

Largest Synthetic Drug Crackdown EVER!!!

As a part of “Project Synergy,” the largest synthetic drug/research chemical operation ever, “thousands” in the upper echelon of retailers, distributors and manufacturing gangs/cartels across the US_Department_of_Homeland_Security_Sealcountry are being raided resulting in over 51 million dollars in cash and assets, and counting.  If past experience is any indicator, the information seized today will feed the operation and totals will continue to grow for months.

Since Project Synergy began December 1 of 2012, more than 227 arrests were made and 416 search warrants served in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, along with more than $51 million in cash and assets seized.   Altogether, 9,445 kilograms of individually packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs, 299 kilograms of cathinone drugs (the falsely labeled “bath salts”), 1,252 kilograms of cannabinoid drugs (used to make the so-called “fake pot” or herbal incense products), and 783 kilograms of treated plant material were seized.

DEA chief of operations James Capra told reporters that millions of dollars in profits from the drug trafficking were being funneled to groups in the Middle East.

“The bad guys need money to fund their operations,” said Derek Maltz, who heads DEA’s special operations division. “The bad guys need money to … buy their explosives, to buy their guns.”

The DEA is confirming  227 arrests in 35 states, 49 cities, and the countries of Australia, Barbados, Canada and Panama involving the DEA, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), Customs  and

Operation Synergy 2Border Protection (CBP) which is a division of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and local law enforcement agencies across the country.

“Stopping the flow of synthetic drugs both domestically and internationally is a major focal point at DEA,” said Michael J. Stanfill, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Nashville District Office. “In doing so, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt the flow of these dangerous substances. This case was successful Continue reading

The Day that Changed My Life Forever – June 14, 2011

HC pics 052

Max Dobner
1992 – 2011

by Karen Dobner

It’s been two years since the death of my beautiful son, Max.

I woke up on June 14, 2011 to an ordinary day, never imagining that it would be the day that changed my life forever.  Life is so fragile.  One mistake can cost you everything.

Max and I had normal conversation that morning and started an uneventful day. I remember laughing with him, but can’t remember about what.  Max loved to make people laugh.  He spent his life trying to make this a better world.  His career goals involved using his life to help others.  He wanted to be a psychiatrist.  I always imagined him using his unwavering empathy to help people.

Max was the most perfect human being I had ever met in my whole life.  We have no memories of him being grouchy, inconsiderate, disrespectful, rude, nasty or anything but respectful, pleasant, considerate, funny, and just a wonderful human being.

When I left the house, he was mowing the lawn.  No one ever had to tell him to mow the lawn.  He saw what needed to be done, and did it with, without complaint.  Max never DSC00038complained.

I don’t remember if I said “I love you” when I left.

It was always my habit to say “I love you” when I hung up the phone or left the house.  For two years, I’ve racked by brain trying to remember if I told him that I loved him that day.  But he knew.  Max was a momma’s boy.  We worshipped each other.

As I arrived at my destination, he called me because I had forgotten that I was supposed to donate blood with Emily.  So, I had another chance to tell him how much I loved him.  Did I do it?  I don’t remember.  But I have some comfort that I almost always ended phone conversations with “I love you.”

Later that day, I got the phone call that every mother fears more than anything on earth.  A fate much worse than death.  The officer told me that my son did not survive an accident, all I could say was Continue reading