FOX 21 Exclusive: Jim Carlson Breaks Silence From Prison
After more than four years in prison, former Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson speaks to FOX 21 in his first television interview.
DULUTH, Minn. – In a FOX 21 exclusive, former Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson breaks his silence to FOX 21’s Dan Hanger. It’s his first television interview since he went to prison four years ago and since he got his lengthy sentence a year after that. In part one, we talk about Carlson’s life behind bars, if he has any regrets for selling synthetic drugs and why he never backed down until he was forced to by the feds.
Today, 60-year-old Carlson is serving his 17.5 year sentence in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.
“Put it mildly, it sucks. Ya know, especially for the amount of time.” Carlson said by phone from the prison. “It’s just a hell of a change from my life style before.”
That life before was centered out of his old head shop, Last Place on Earth, in downtown Duluth where he sold millions of dollars in synthetic drugs – also known as fake marijuana.
“They’re sitting on my money, they’re sitting on my guns, they’re violating my rights,” Carlson said in a previous interview with FOX 21 during his battle as a free man.
Carlson despised the government for going after him and he wasn’t afraid to bump his chest to the very authorities who would ultimately help land him in prison for 17.5 years for selling synthetics.
“It seems like it’s three or four of them are like Nazi agents,” Carlson said in a 2012 interview with FOX 21.
But today behind bars, Carlson says he’s trying to stay as positive as he can by being as busy as possible reading the paper every day, along with magazines and books.
“It keeps me from going nuts,” Carlson said.
Carlson is also even studying the Buddhist religion.
“The most important thing in Buddhism is forgiveness. Learning to forgive those that what they’ve done to you,” Carlson said.
“Do you forgive the people who put you where you are today,” asked FOX 21’s Dan Hanger.
“I have a hard time accepting it, but I do forgive them. I think they were misled,” Carlson replied.
Carlson, who says he made – at times – nearly a million dollars in synthetic drug sales at his downtown Duluth head shop is now only making $17 a month in prison.
“We cook, we serve the food. We wash the plates after they are done. We cut the grass, we paint the walls, we work on the electrical,” Carlson explained.
And he says he’s one of the few who gets along with everybody in what he describes as the ultimate form of segregated criminals.
“There’s the haters section, there’s the handicap section, there’s the fat boy section, there’s the gay section, there’s the child molester section. The Mexicans all sit together. The natives all sit together. And the blacks all sit together,” Carlson said.
“So who do you sit with then?” Hanger asked.
“I bounce around,” Carlson responded.
And while he’s molded his daily routine to be as comfortable as possible, make no doubt about it, Jim Carlson wants out and believes he’s an innocent who was targeted for standing up to authority.
“Are you a bad guy?” Hanger asked.
“I don’t think so,” Carlson responded.
But clearly the government believes he is the bad guy.
The court ruled Carlson willingly sold illegal synthetic drugs mislabeled as incense and bath salts that were toxic to humans, and he did so, they say, trying to avoid loopholes in state laws until the feds changed that.
“That was the country’s largest synthetic drug retailer,” said former police chief Gordon Ramsay of Last Place on Earth.
Ramsay, who is now chief in Wichita, Kansas, battled Carlson through it all and has zero sympathy for the guy.
“I asked him to stop it. I talked to him about my conversations with his neighboring businesses and what he was doing to their business and the impact on innocent lives. And he was defiant,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay said police calls were non-stop downtown because of Last Place, and the hospitals were jam packed with synthetic users suffering dangerous side effects.
“A lot of lives were ruined by Jim Carlson and what he did,” Ramsay said.
And nearby businesses were on the verge of closure from the thousands of customers — some addicted — coming to the store daily, according to Ramsay.
“It was a circus, and it impacted business downtown like nothing you could imagine,” Ramsay said.
But Carlson believes the good far outweighed any bad. He felt he was helping people with their pain and illnesses by selling synthetics to people who couldn’t legally buy marijuana off the streets.
“When a 22-year-old girl walks in that’s got a cancer tumor in their brain and you don’t know how long they are going to live comes up to you and tells you the only thing that’s keeping you alive is your product, it just about makes you tear up,” Carlson said. “You feel like a medicine man almost, helping certain people.”
And when that quote above was described to Ramsay, his reaction was immediate.
“Totally out of touch with reality. Absolutely not. That’s the biggest bunch of garbage I’ve ever heard. You talk to the officers that we reworking the streets, and we saw time and time again of families being ruined by synthetic drugs,” Ramsay said.
“Was this all worth it?” Hanger asked Carlson.
“Well, ya know, would a person – not to compare myself to Nelson Mandela — but he spent 27 years, went in as a terrorist and came out and became president,” Carlson explained.
And being president was something Carlson was hoping for at one point when he ran under the Grassroots Party in 2012.
Tuesday night on FOX 21 News at 9, Carlson talks about his last hope to get out of prison early – even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial to hear his case. Plus, St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin weighs in.