The Defense rests in Last Place on Earth case, closing statements expected Wednesday

By KBJR News 1

October 1, 2013 Updated Oct 1, 2013 at 7:52 PM CDT

Minneapolis, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The defense has rested in the federal case against three employees of Duluth's Last Place on Earth, bringing with it an end to two and a half weeks of witness testimony, evidence, and at times heated cross examinations.

Owner Jim Carlson is facing 55 counts related to synthetic drug sales.

The main argument has become a battle between the fundamentals of chemistry, and the definitions of the law.

Before the defense rested Tuesday Doctor Mark Erickson, a Professor of Organic Chemistry, finished his testimony, which furthered the heated debate on the term "substantially similar," which frequently came up in this case.

Prosecutors reiterated that every banned chemical compound that has been sold at Last Place since 2009 is a synthetic cannabinoid, and that, coupled with their intended use and effects when consumed, by law, makes them "substantially similar" to the original banned substance JWH–018.

That, they said, makes them illegal analogues.

But Doctor Erickson disagreed, stating that "substantially similar" is too broad and suggestive a term for the field of chemistry.

He added that the difference of two hydrogen electrons can be the difference between life sustaining gas for plants and manmade poison.

Prosecutor Saxena reminded Erickson that the field of chemistry and law are different, and that "substantially similar" is a legal term.

Saxena added that the difference of, at times, one atom, by law makes every synthetic cannabinoid in question an illegal analogue.

Closing statements will be heard come Wednesday, followed by a lengthy reading of jury instructions and 125 pages worth of charges.

During Wednesday's hearing, the jury is also expected to hear whether the counts brought against Joseph Gellerman and Lava Haugen--both Last Place employees--will be dropped altogether.

Billy Wagness

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