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Published September 21, 2011, 07:36 PM

Police Raid Duluth Head Shop For Designer Drugs

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Police on Wednesday raided a Duluth head shop that sells synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs.

By: Associated Press,

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Police on Wednesday raided a Duluth head shop that sells synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs.

The raid at Last Place on Earth began when an officer came in Wednesday and bought a bag of incense, said Lava Haugen, a clerk and the girlfriend of owner Jim Carlson.

Haugen said police produced a search warrant and around 15 officers spent the afternoon boxing up the store's supplies of herbal incense, other substances and money, and going through files and records. They also confiscated Carlson's cell phone and computer, she said.

Police spokesman Jim Hansen said the search warrant was part of an ongoing investigation into the sale of illegal synthetic marijuana. He said Last Place on Earth would be closed until investigators left.

Haugen said police arrested Carlson's son and took him to jail, but Hansen said no arrests were made.

Carlson's attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Haugen said Carlson was not immediately available for comment on the raid because police made him open the store's safe and he was making sure they inventoried everything they took.

Synthetic drugs have been a growing concern nationwide, as hospitals report a sharp spike in the number of users becoming ill, with some suffering seizures and hallucinations. At least two deaths in Minnesota in recent months have been linked to synthetic drugs.

Authorities say products sold over the Internet and in head shops as "herbal incense" often contain chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana, while powders marketed as "bath salts," 'plant food" and "research chemicals" frequently contain synthetic stimulants or hallucinogens.

Efforts to regulate the drugs are difficult as manufacturers tweak formulations to stay ahead of efforts to ban them.

In an interview Wednesday before the raid, Carlson told The Associated Press that he wasn't selling any substances listed as banned. But he acknowledged he operates in a gray area because Minnesota also bans "analog drugs" that are similar to the prohibited chemicals. He said he stopped selling bath salts last Friday because he feared a crackdown. He said the incense is his most popular product and he sells about $16,000 worth on his busiest days.

"I know I'm risking getting arrested," he said.

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