Synthetics Showdown: Part 2

By KBJR News 1

May 15, 2013 Updated May 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)-- While manning the till at Last Place on Earth, owner Jim Carlson says his lawyer has repeatedly told him that the incense he sells is legal.

"If what I'm doing is legal, then why in the heck can they keep raiding and locking me up?" questioned Carlson at his store.

He's confused by the government's continual actions against him, calling it harassment.

Since, Carlson began selling incense, his store has been raided three times, the city of Duluth has filed two nuisance violations, he's been arrested and jailed, his property and money has been seized and he's been charged and indicted on several felony counts.

Carlson's attorney, Randall Tigue has stood by Carlson since the beginning and has moved to dismiss the complaint and indictment against his client.

"The controlled substances charges against him are outrageous," said Tigue.

Tigue says the US attorney's claim that Carlson sold the illegal chemical JWH-018 is a trumped up charge.

"What the DEA did on March 1st of 2011 was issue a temporary order banning JWH," said Tigue.

Tigue says that order violated the Congressional Review Act that says when the government adopts a regulation, they must report it to Congress and the Comptroller General before it takes effect.

"The DEA did none of that with JWH-018."

So, it's Tigue's position that this chemical was never lawfully declared illegal and because of that, he says all the look-alike, or analog chemicals the government accuses Carlson of selling were never lawfully declared illegal either.

"If JWH-018 was never lawfully declared in the first instance, all of those analog cases go down the toilet," said Tigue. "They never said that any other chemical, other than the five they named are illegal. So that's why I suggested that not only is the prosecution unconstitutional, it is unconscionable."

The federal indictment also alleges Carlson sold misbranded products. Tigue says the government's claims are preposterous.

"The label itself determines the use of the actual product," said Tigue. "They can't make a case of misbranding based upon the fact the customers do something than what the label says."

On another front, the state has claimed Carlson sold an illegal controlled stimulate.

"They're making a claim that he knew this substance was illegal and was selling it anyway," said Tigue. "And I can tell you as who he made the statement to, was a preposterous lie."

Tigue is confident he will win the dismissal of all the current charges against Carlson, and that The Last Place on Earth will be able to keep selling incense.

"We're just trying to stay legal in the system so we're not selling an illegal product," said Carlson. "If a chemical is banned, they switch and go to a new chemical."

Carlson says he follows the chemical bans and makes adjustments as needed.

Mayor Ness says Duluth is using every legal maneuver they can to shut down what they call a dangerous nuisance in the city.

"The law's intent is clear but they're using legal tricks and loopholes to get around the real intent of the law," said Ness. "We've been using every tool, every resource to address this problem."

Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL Duluth, says the state should step up to help Duluth in this battle.

"We need every single tool that's available," said Reinert. "We need the Attorney General, we want her on board. She has all kinds of authority as the chief prosecutor in the state of Minnesota."

"I do believe that if this same problem were happening in downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul, that there would be a greater sense of urgency to fix the problem," said Ness.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says outside help would help take take the burden off of his officers.

"It's fallen on the backs of the police department in this case," said Ramsay. "It's no secret that there is a major, major problem there and we're community driven, and the community is saying, do something about this."

Carlson feels like he's locked in a battle with the government.

"I feel like I'm in Nazi Germany with the way they treat my customers, the way they treat my workers, the way they've treated me and my family," said Carlson.

Zach Vavricka

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