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Jury finds Last Place on Earth owner guilty of 51 counts in drug trial

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A federal jury convicted the owner of the Duluth head shop Last Place on Earth on 51 counts related to the sale of illegal and misbranded drugs.

WDIO has a breakdown of the convictions against Jim Carlson, who was also acquitted of four counts. All the charges involved the sale of illegal synthetic drugs or products called analogues, which mimic those drugs.

Carlson's girlfriend, Lava Haugen, and his son, Joseph Gellerman, were each convicted of four counts, WDIO says.

The Associated Press reports the trial was seen as a test of the federal governernment's ability to fight the sale of synthetic drugs.

Carlson maintained he was selling nothing illegal. The products were sold as incense or bath salts and some were labelled as not for human comsumption, but as the Duluth News Tribune reports, prosecutors argued Carlson and his employees knew they were selling recreational drugs.

Testimony in the case wrapped up last week and jurors in Minneapolis spent about three days deliberating. A sentencing hearing is expected later this month, WDIO says. The News Tribune reports the indictment against Carlson and his co-defendants indicated that if they were found guilty the government would try to recover nearly $3 million from four bank accounts.

Carlson also faces legal fights with the state and with the city of Duluth, which closed his shop in July by declaring it a public nuisance. City officials say crime and public complaints downtown have plummeted since Last Place on Earth was shuttered.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is preparing to strengthen its laws against synthetic drugs. The Duluth lawmaker who heads the House Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs tells MPR recommendations for the Legislature should be ready soon and will contain an educational component to combat the pervasive idea that synthetic drugs are harmless.

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