In controversial verdict, Jim Carlson, Last Place on Earth owner, convicted of felony drug charges

Carlson's store is closed, and he'll remain behind bars pending his sentencing.
Carlson's store is closed, and he'll remain behind bars pending his sentencing.

Jim Carlson days of selling synthetic drugs in Duluth appear to be over for good. Yesterday, he was convicted of 51 felony counts in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

THE BACKSTORY: Last Place owner Jim Carlson arrested again, one day after posting bail

But Carlson's precedent-setting conviction is controversial, and his attorney says he'll appeal. Carlson was found guilty not of selling illegal substances per se, but of violating a federal law prohibiting the sale of "analogue" substances designed to mimic illegal ones.

Carlson, 56, estimated his Last Place on Earth store, which was shuttered in July, made $6 million selling synthetic marijuana and stimulants in 2011 alone.

The Duluth News Tribune details what sort of sentence Carlson might be facing when a judge announces it in a few weeks:

The defendants [which included Carlson, his girlfriend, Lava Haugen, and his son, Joseph Gellerman] face a potential maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States; three years for violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act; and 20 years for each count of violating the Controlled Substances Act. In addition, Carlson faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from a specified unlawful activity.

After the jury announced its verdict, Duluth Mayor Don Ness said he feels a sense of relief his city will no longer have to deal with Carlson and the problems his store presented for the downtown area. But it's unclear whether Carlson's conviction will stick.

Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Hamline Law School in St. Paul, told the Star Tribune the federal "analogue" law is vague and could lead to a successful appeal.

"I think the defense may have a good argument," he said.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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