ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Constitutionality of Duluth synthetic drug ordinance at question in case

The owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop in Duluth was in federal court again Friday, this time asking that a Duluth city ordinance aimed at regulating sales of synthetic drugs be declared unconstitutional.

Jim Carlson
Jim Carlson, owner of Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth (File / News Tribune)

The owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop in Duluth was in federal court again Friday, this time asking that a Duluth city ordinance aimed at regulating sales of synthetic drugs be declared unconstitutional.

Jim Carlson says applying for a city license under the new city ordinance would require him to incriminate himself and is a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.

Duluth attorney David Malban, who represented Carlson on Friday, argued in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois that the city ordinance is

unconstitutional on its face and as it is being applied to Carlson.

Carlson is asking the court for a motion for preliminary injunction, essentially a temporary restraining order, to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance, which went into effect Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Assistant City Attorneys Allison Lutterman and Nathan LaCoursiere argued that the ordinance doesn't require self-incrimination because it only regulates substances not on any state or federal list as illegal. Moreover, they argued that Carlson would simply be subject to a civil fine if he fails to obtain a new city license, money which could be recovered if he prevails in the federal case. Because that's not irreparable harm, the city argued, there is no basis for a temporary restraining order.

Among other regulations aimed at the Superior Street store, the city wants to restrict hours and sales to minors and force products sold to list the name and contact information of the manufacturer as well as all ingredients -- all for substances that are unregulated and technically legal.

"The public interest in seeing this ordinance enforced substantially outweighs Mr. Carlson's financial interests," LaCoursiere said.

Brisbois said a decision on the restraining order will be issued by noon Monday.

In the meantime, Carlson apparently has removed from his downtown shop all of the synthetic substances that would be regulated under the city ordinance. His shop remains open, but with little of the usual customer traffic.

City officials confirmed that the city has no authority to close the shop under the new ordinance and in fact has not instituted any civil fine for failing to obtain a license. It's not clear when that fine will be enacted for the ordinance. The city can charge up to $1,000 per day in civil fines for failing to comply with civil ordinances.

The case is one of a half-dozen pending legal actions involving Carlson in both state and federal court, civil and criminal, stemming from the sales of synthetic drugs at the Last Place on Earth.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.