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Duluth store simply switches brands of synthetic marijuana to avoid ban

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While an emergency plan to outlaw the sale of five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana becomes official today, the Last Place on Earth in Duluth will still have top-selling brands on the shelves.

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"We're just going to pull in the ones with different compounds -- and they are readily available," owner Jim Carlson said.

He planned to keep the store open late Monday so people could have their last chance to purchase the particular forms of fake pot that would be illegal to buy after midnight.

Five chemicals used in the incense will be banned for sale for at least a year with the Drug Enforcement Administration's filing of a final notice on Monday. The order will be published in the Federal Register today.

The fake marijuana, sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet, is marketed under various brands including Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn. The products contain organic leaves coated with chemicals that provide a marijuana-like high when smoked.

Along with the federal ban, some states and cities, including Duluth, have tried to halt sales of the incense, with limited success.

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday that would make it a gross misdemeanor to sell synthetic marijuana and a misdemeanor to possess the drug. A similar bill awaits action in the Senate.

Federal drug officials announced plans for the emergency measure in November, amid increasing reports of bad reactions to the chemicals -- including seizures, hallucinations and dependency.

Carlson said he and three other owners of stores that sell the product in the Twin Cities, as well as three manufacturers, are committed to fight the ban and will file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks.

"We just think they're overstepping their boundaries and treading on the Constitution," Carlson said of the DEA and the U.S. Department of Justice. "We plan to take it to the Supreme Court."

In the meantime, Carlson doesn't think his sales of fake pot will be stymied by the ban.

"Let's say I had a liquor store, and you like gin ... and they say you can't have gin any more," he said. "Well, you're probably going to keep coming back, but now you'll buy vodka."

Carlson also said with about 210 similar chemicals available, it's going to be tough for the government to have any effect on usage of the product.

"It's going to be hard for them," he said. "The manufacturers will be trying to keep one step ahead."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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