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Head Shop Owner Gets 17½ Years for Selling Synthetic Drugs

Jim Carlson's long prison sentence will serve as a testing ground for future synthetic drug prosecutions.

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Jim Carlson. Photo via

By Desiree Bowie

08/20/14

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Jim Carlson, owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop in Duluth, Minn., was sentenced to 17½ years in prison for selling synthetic drugs out of his shop. A U.S District Judge doled out the long sentence during a hearing at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis last Thursday. 

The case serves as one of the first tests in a federal court of how authorities can begin to fight synthetic drugs, which have previously been difficult for authorities to regulate due to drug makers constantly adjusting their formulas to stay ahead of the law. Lawmakers and police officials believe that the stiff sentence will send a clear message to the many people who continue to sell synthetic drugs.

During the hearing, Carlson, 57, of Superior, Wis., delivered a statement criticizing drug-laws and the government. “All over the place, not a person got bothered but me and my family,” he told the judge. “I was always told that laws are applied equally. I cannot see how this is equal.”

Carlson went on to argue that dozens of other stores and countless Internet sites across the country sell synthetics without interference from the government. “Everybody admits the war on drugs is not working. It's a fiasco,” Carlson complained.

Carlson’s defense attorney, Randall Tigue, told reporters of plans to appeal because Judge Doty prevented them from explaining why Carlson believed his actions were legal. “We'll have an appeal filed by Monday,” Tigue said.

After the hearing, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar issued a statement praising the sentence. “Today’s action sends a strong message about our commitment to cracking down on synthetic drugs and the people who push them,” she said. “Synthetic drugs are tearing families apart and claiming young peoples’ lives in Minnesota and across the country.”

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