Police, doctors: Duluth synthetic drug use plummets post-'Last Place'

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For some Duluth users, Last Place on Earth may be the last place they purchased synthetic drugs.

Since the notorious downtown head shop was shut down over the summer, police tell the News Tribune synthetic drug calls are about one-third of what they used to be. Similarly, an emergency room doctor tells the newspaper a huge decrease in overdose cases started almost immediately after the shop was closed.

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson had long maintained that the products he sold were legal. But a federal court jury disagreed, convicting him on more than fifty counts related to illegal drug sales.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay noted on his Facebook page in October that a weekly report summarizing synthetic drug-related calls used to be 15-20 pages long. Ramsay happily reported that the most recent one was less than one page.

Don't think that drugs are no longer a problem in Duluth, though. Ramsay tells the News Tribune that abuse of heroin and prescription drugs continue. In addition, the paper reports two shops in Virginia, Minnesota, are still catering to synthetic drug users.

His attorney has requested a new trial for Carlson, arguing that U.S. District Court Judge David Doty erred by excluding certain evidence and by giving faulty instructions to the jury.

Meanwhile, a legislative panel is looking for ways to improve state laws regarding synthetics. The Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs heard testimony at the Capitol last month and is preparing recommendations for the session that begins in February.

A Duluth lawmaker, DFL Rep. Erik Simonson, is the chair of that committee, which is in keeping with the city's reputation as Minnesota's ground zero in the fight on synthetic drugs. Ground Zero is the name of a documentary film released last summer, looking at synthetic drug use in the area and at Carlson's shop, in particular.

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