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Published June 25, 2013, 09:58 AM

Film takes aim at Duluth synthetic drugs struggle

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A new 25-minute documentary takes aim at Duluth's struggle over synthetic drugs.

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A new 25-minute documentary takes aim at Duluth's struggle over synthetic drugs.

"Ground Zero: Duluth's Battle Against Synthetic Drugs," by filmmaker Jonathan Bothun, of Superior, Wis., features police officers, medical professionals and users telling about how the drugs have changed the people addicted to them and the places where they use them.

The film also features Jim Carlson, owner of the Duluth store that's the main outlet for synthetic drugs in the area, who insists he operates legally.

Carlson, who attended Monday night's premiere, told the Duluth News Tribune the horror stories told by users "creep me out," though he claimed many of them aren't true. He said people who use illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin tell police they're using synthetics to dodge felony drug charges.

In the film, Carlson said the "bottom line" is that he's fighting for the legalization of marijuana.

The film also features a now drug-free woman who talked about her 14 years of drug and alcohol abuse that ended with a savage addiction to synthetics because they were legal, cheap and easy to get.

Doctors discuss the increasing paranoia and hallucinations they're seeing along with other serious side effects from the drugs.

"I think it's taxing the system," said Dr. Amery Robinson of St. Luke's hospital.

During a panel discussion, Dr. Scott Wolff from St. Luke's repeated some of the stories of users' bizarre behavior. There's the man who blinded himself by gouging out one eye with his fingers and stabbed the other eye with a fork. There was the man found running naked with his hand in his rectum, where some synthetic drugs were also found.

Duluth police officer Nick Lepak, who's shown in the film and sat in on the panel, said synthetics have become the drugs of choice in Duluth.

"Regular marijuana has become scarce," he said.

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