Duluth head shop owner accused of selling bath salts

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson and his son, Joseph Gellerman, were arrested and put in jail Friday afternoon after the Duluth Police Department performed a search warrant at the store.

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson is placed into a police car Friday afternoon, March 29, 2013, after being arrested on three charges of fourth-degree sale of an illegal substance at the Last Place on Earth in Duluth, Minn. (Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune)

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson and his son, Joseph Gellerman, were arrested and put in jail Friday afternoon after the Duluth Police Department performed a search warrant at the store.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Carlson and his son were selling an illegal substance under state law, one that is commonly referred to as bath salts.

"He's selling products out of there that are illegal," Ramsay said in front of the store on East Superior Street after the 2:20 p.m. raid and arrests.

The two men, arrested on probable cause after undercover buys at the store, each face three counts of fourth-degree sale of controlled substances, Ramsay said.

Carlson was led out of the store in handcuffs at 3 p.m.


"The Nazis got me again," Carlson said as he was stuffed into a police car. "It's all legal."

As the car pulled away, people among a group of onlookers in front of the Fond-du-Luth Casino cheered in support of Carlson.

"He'll be out today," one of them said.

That isn't likely. The St. Louis County Attorney's office has 36 hours to bring charges, not including weekend days. He'll likely remain in jail until official charges are brought up Monday or Tuesday, county attorney Mark Rubin said. He joined Ramsey at a 3:30 p.m. press conference in front of the store.

Police were still sorting through products at the store into the afternoon and every once in a while emerging with bags. Police left the scene about 5 p.m. and a sign was posted on the door saying the store was closed until further notice.

Rubin said state law does not allow for the sale of the powder-like stimulant known as Alpha-PVP. Rubin said more details on the search warrant will come when Carlson and Gellerman are officially charged next week.

The charges are different than others in the past two years dealing with leafy substances laced with chemicals to simulate illicit drugs.

Ramsay said the customers in the store at the time of the raid were cooperative, as was Carlson.


Ramsay said the arrests Friday were part of an ongoing effort by his department to quell the "astounding" impact on the area of downtown surrounding the store as hundreds of people file through the store each day.

He also said he's worried about the health impact of the synthetic drugs sold out of Last Place. He cited the hospital visits and "bizarre" behavior of Last Place customers in the past few years.

"It's nothing short of an epidemic," Ramsay said.

Carlson, his girlfriend, his son and a former employee are under the indictment of a federal grand jury for allegedly violating federal drug and product-labeling laws. All four have pleaded not guilty, and a jury trial has been scheduled for September.

The government is using consumer laws on product labeling to prosecute the case. The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges that Carlson intended to mislead government authorities with false labels that, besides suggesting the products weren't drugs, failed to describe contents accurately and failed to include health warnings about their use.

The store was raided in September 2011 and again last summer.

The city of Duluth has also served a "Notice of Public Nuisance" on Last Place on Earth and Carlson. In January, Carlson was ordered to pay for two police officers to be stationed near the store while it is open. Just this week, Carlson formally announced that he would be staying open later to accommodate those still in line waiting to buy at 9 p.m.

The chief said Friday that many people are wondering why synthetics and Last Place continue to be such a bane for the city. He said most owners facing 51 federal drug charges and the constant surveillance from police would shut down.


"But he comes right back and opens up for business," Ramsay said.

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