Skip to main content

Last Place on Earth trial: Embattled head shop owner expected to testify

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

Chemists are testifying in the case of embattled Duluth head shop owner Jim Carlson, who is also likely to testify early next week, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Carlson, 56, is charged with 55 federal crimes, accused of selling and mislabeling substances that are almost exactly like illegal drugs – just slightly different enough in their chemical makeup to make them technically different products, or "analogues." It can be more difficult for prosecutors to bring cases against analogue sellers.

Carlson for four years has sold incense and bath salt products out of his downtown Duluth shop, products that witnesses in the trial have said were taken as drugs.

Carlson's shop, The Last Place on Earth, has long been the focus of controversy and criticism from downtown boosters who say the store is a nuisance. Police agree; they are routinely called to the shop.

Carlson says he is being harassed by the government. "They're not bothering anybody else," Carlson said, MPR reported.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis began Sept. 18. At issue in the case is what store employees sold, and what they knew about the legality of the chemical compounds in their most popular products, which amount to synthetic drugs, Forum Communications reported.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Surya Saxena told the jury in opening statements that evidence proves Carlson, along with co-defendants girlfriend Lava Haugen and son Joseph Gellerman, knew they were selling "analogues" — products substantially similar to illegal drugs, Forum reported. Saxena said evidence shows Carlson gave the products to employees and encouraged them to use them as drugs, WDIO reported.

Prosecutors say 80 percent of Carlson's business has been selling synthetic stimulants, cannabinoids and analogues – netting him millions of dollars, Northland's Newscenter noted.

But Defense lawyers said Carlson went to great lengths to comply with the letter of the law, and that the defendants did not believe they were selling anything illegal.

In testimony Thursday, defense lawyers questioned a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency chemist who acknowledged that the agency did not tell the public – specifically, Carlson – that several of his products qualified as illegal analogues.

Among the witnesses in the case has been Jamie Anderson, 25, who testified that Carlson instructed staffers to sell the products as “spice” or “incense” – and not to tell any customers that they were for smoking, Forum Communications reported. Carlson told his workers not to sell to any customer who referred to their intention of using the substances as drugs. But store staff knew that customers were using the products to get high, Anderson said.

The trial takes a break Friday, and the government is expected to rest its case when the trial resumes Monday. Defense lawyers are expected to call chemists Monday, and Carlson is expected to testify, possibly Tuesday. The trial could go to the jury as early as Wednesday.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

North High principal Mauri Friestleben returning to finish year

The principal said Friday she had been fired from her role over her support of a student protest.

ambulance

One dead, two injured in wrong-way crash on Hwy. 169

The crash occurred on Highway 169 early Sunday morning.

minneapolis police

Man fatally shot overnight in north Minneapolis

The shooting was reported around 2:20 a.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 8.30.08 AM

Campsites closed at Voyageurs National Park due to 'historic' water levels

All backcountry trails and campsites are closed, as well as many frontcountry sites.

state capitol Minnesota

Lawmakers reach agreement on tax cuts ahead of session's end

Lawmakers announced they had reached a deal on a tax bill Saturday ahead of the looming session deadline.

281699116_10226502238438986_800951410789352812_n

Victims of daytime drive-by shooting in Robbinsdale identified

The two men died after a hail of bullets struck a vehicle.

Screen Shot 2022-05-22 at 8.14.37 AM

Source of 'loud explosion' in Brooklyn Park a mystery

The noise was investigated by police, but no source could be determined.

covid, vaccine, booster shots

COVID: All Americans over 50 advised to get a second booster

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise again as new COVID variants emerge.

J.W. Peck (left) and Eric Galler.

2 Minnesotans inducted into White Castle's Hall of Fame

White Castle — it's what a man in Minneapolis and another in Woodbury, crave.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 5.46.37 PM

Video shows officers ended pursuit before fatal crash in Anoka

The crash occurred when the driver fled police during an attempted traffic stop in Coon Rapids.

Eli Hart

6-year-old Eli Hart identified as boy found dead in car trunk

The kindergartner's father was trying to get full custody of his son.

IMG_3509

Boy found dead in trunk of car in Mound was kindergartner

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community," the superintendent wrote.

Related