Synthetic pot crackdown poised to become law

Duluth police and business and political leaders call the city “Ground Zero” in the statewide fight against synthetic marijuana. That’s largely because of one man, Jim Carlson, who says he has made millions of dollars selling “spice” out of his downtown headshop, Last Place on Earth.

last place on earth 006.jpgLast Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson stands in front of a display of synthetic marijuana products he sells from his downtown Duluth store.

But a bill that has now cleared both the Minnesota House and Senate could shut down that portion of Carlson’s business. The bill would strengthen an existing law passed last year that tried to crack down on the sale of synthetics. This law would slap more severe penalties on their sale and empower the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy to quickly add new drugs to the list of illegal compounds.

The idea, according to one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, is to keep one step ahead of “home chemists,” who would slightly alter the composition of synthetic drugs to evade the law. “Instead of having to inscribe into law every single analog or derivation that might come,” explained Reinert, “the state board is able to say, ‘that’s just a variation of something that we have deemed illegal in state law, therefore it falls under that same umbrella category.'”

Jim Carlson, for his part, says he’s “definitely going to go after” the new law, which is modeled after similar legislation passed in Kansas. “The reason it’s stuck in other states,” Carlson said, “is because nobody’s challenged it.”

Carlson fought a Duluth law trying to ban the sale of synthetic drugs, and also challenged the bill passed last year by the state legislature. Duluth police raided his shop last September, but have yet to press charges. This new law, if passed, would make selling sythetic drugs a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Sen. Reinert said he believes Governor Dayton could sign the bill by the end of the week.

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