A trial to determine the future of The Last Place on Earth, a head shop in downtown Duluth that sells synthetic drugs, begins Monday. The controversial store has been shuttered since a July 19 court order temporarily closed it. The Duluth News Tribune reports that owner Jim Carlson will make a case to have his shop reopened; the city is seeking to have the shop closed for one year. If Carlson wins, he may be able to reopen and resume sales of the products.
Meanwhile, the closing of the store over the past month has had an impact on the Old Downtown area. The Northland News Center cited reports from the Duluth Police Department, which showed a dramatic drop in crime calls from the block. From June 26 to July 19th the DPD received 98 calls from Superior Street. From July 20 through August 12th, after Last Place was shut down, the number fell to 48 calls.
Neighboring businesses report improved sales. Business owners have complained about customers who loiter and panhandle. The newspaper reports that emergency rooms are seeing fewer synthetic drug cases and that a city drop-in shelter said fewer residents were using synthetics in the bathroom and dormitories.
Shop owner Jim Carlson, 55, remains unrepentant. He told the newspaper that closing his store had a negative economic impact on the block because the hundreds of customers who came to The Last Place On Earth every day also patronized nearby businesses. He also insisted that the closure simply spread his customers out downtown, where they buy synthetic drugs underground.
“Now they’re on every corner, and the cops know it,” he told the newspaper. “They’ve made it worse because now it’s everywhere.”
Carlson also faces nine drug charges in St. Louis County Court and 55 charges with his son, girlfriend and a former shop employee in federal court. The federal case is scheduled to go to trial next month, and Carlson said that is his top priority.
“They want to lock me up and put me away for 900 years,” he said. “That’s the case I’m worried about.”