Judge orders Last Place closed till hearingDuluth police made a controlled buy of synthetic drugs from the Last Place on Earth — which is not licensed to sell them — on Thursday night, and the city has used that information to gain a temporary restraining order to close the Superior Street store.
Duluth police made a controlled buy of synthetic drugs from the Last Place on Earth — which is not licensed to sell them — on Thursday night, and the city has used that information to gain a temporary restraining order to close the Superior Street store.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden signed the order at 5 p.m. Friday and it immediately went into effect. The store had closed by 6:30 p.m.
Owner Jim Carlson is prohibited from reopening his head shop at least until a formal hearing on the matter is held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in State District Court in Duluth.
If Carlson fails to keep his store closed, the city is authorized by the temporary restraining order to lock and secure the building at 120 E. Superior St. without further court action.
The city’s motion for the temporary restraining order said that Carlson and his business are engaged in a “contemptuous, willful, and flagrant violation of the city’s licensing laws.”
In asking for the temporary restraining order, Deputy City Attorney M. Alison Lutterman told Hylden that Carlson has had the opportunity to demonstrate that he can “be a good citizen and comply with the law,” but he instead had been “disingenuous and disrespectful” of the city ordinance
requiring a license to sell synthetics.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis on Thursday issued an order denying Carlson’s motion for a preliminary injunction to keep the city from enforcing its synthetic drug licensing ordinance.
Within hours of the order, Lutterman said there were media accounts of Carlson saying he was going to resume selling synthetics without a license. Police then made the controlled buy.
The city’s written motion for the temporary restraining order stated: “The only way to ensure that the defendants will not continue to violate the law is to order the immediate closure of the Last Place on Earth. Any other order will only create an administrative nightmare causing the city to monitor the activities at the store on a 24-7 basis.”
Lutterman and Assistant City Attorney Nathan LaCoursiere presented the city’s case to Hylden with City Attorney Gunnar Johnson looking on as most of the rest of the courthouse employees had left the building for the weekend.
“The law says that to sell synthetic drugs in the city of Duluth you need to have a license. Mr. Carlson has challenged that in federal court trying to seek a TRO and was unsuccessful there,” Johnson said outside the courtroom. “After the federal court issued the decision denying the TRO, he started selling the synthetic drugs in disregard for the laws of the city of Duluth and this is the relief that the city has sought to purse.”
Sales of synthetic marijuana were on again and off again earlier Friday at the store.
Carlson’s son, Joseph Gellerman, who works at the store, confirmed that the product was returned to the shelves on Thursday, shortly after the federal judge denied Carlson’s motion to keep the city from enforcing its ordinance licensing the sale of synthetic drugs.
About 12:30 p.m. Friday, Gellerman was standing at the store’s counter with a handful of patrons waiting to make purchases. Another handful of people stood on the sidewalk outside the store, and a Duluth police vehicle was parked nearby.
Gellerman said city police had delivered a citation for selling synthetics without a license earlier in the morning. But he had continued to sell the product, which is marketed as incense.
The scene had changed by 4:30 p.m., with only one customer in the store and the sidewalk outside virtually deserted. Gellerman said he had removed the incense from the shelves about 2:45 p.m. He deferred further questions to Carlson, whom he expected to be in later.
“He’s probably talking to his attorney,” Gellerman said.
The disruption in sales of the popular but controversial product stems from an ordinance authored by city councilors Linda Krug and Sharla Gardner and passed June 10 that requires any business selling synthetic drugs to pay a $140 licensing fee.
Carlson declined to apply for a license, but took synthetic drugs off his shelves on July 11, the day the ordinance went into effect.
Staff writer John Lundy contributed to this report.