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This machine can tell police in minutes what drug they find. Three Ohio departments now have it

The MX908 is a portable mass spectrometer that can identify substances on-the-scene like fentanyl.
908 Devices
The MX908 is a portable mass spectrometer that can identify substances on-the-scene like fentanyl.

The MX908 mass spectrometer can identify up to 200 substances and the manufacturer says more are being added all the time.

There are skeptics who say people can’t overdose just by touching fentanyl, but tell that to East Liverpool, Ohio, Police Officer Chris Green. In 2017 he needed four doses of Narcan to bring him back after he says he accidentally touched the drug and possibly inhaled it to overdose.

The danger to police is one reason Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is excited to pilot a portable mass spectrometer to determine on the scene what drugs officers are dealing with.

Circleville, Marion and Sidney are the first three cities to get the MX908.

What normally could take weeks at the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will only take minutes. This would not only protect officers but could jail suspects immediately.

Mass spectrometry works by measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.

Yost says Marion is ground zero for trafficking cases out of Detroit, and Marion’s Police Chief Jay McDonald is glad to get the MX908.

“We’re extremely excited to be on the cutting edge of technology," McDonald said during an Oct. 7 news conference. "It will allow us to get results in minutes rather than weeks and help us keep bad guys in jail and keep the community safe.”

The machine can detect up to 200 substances and more are being added all the time.

Yost is hoping the MX908 will hold up legally. Ohio has been testing it for two years. “We’re hoping we’ll convince the courts that the technology is so reliable that they can use that rather than a test at BCI.”

The device is one of the ideas coming out of Yost’s task force on policing of the future.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.