Marquette Forensic Lab sees slight increase in fentanyl evidence

Lab Manager Zachary Blaksmith said some evidence that used to come back from analysis as heroin is now found to be fentanyl.
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:37 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Marquette Forensic Lab is located at the Michigan State Police (MSP) Eighth District Headquarters.

It is one of six forensic labs across the state. The lab’s controlled substance unit is responsible for handling and analyzing drug evidence from across Upper Michigan. The lab’s analysis is meant to assist law enforcement in their investigations.

“Samples are submitted to the crime laboratory by agencies throughout the Upper Peninsula,” Marquette Forensic Laboratory Manager Zachary Blaksmith said. “They’ll basically intercept a drug as evidence, they’ll collect it, submit it to the laboratory then we analyze and determine what is inside of it.”

Blaksmith explained the process the lab takes when analyzing drug evidence.

“We utilize a couple of instruments to determine what’s in drugs,” Blaksmith noted. “We have a gas chromatograph coupled with a mass spectrometer.”

Blaksmith said the gas chromatograph and the mass spectrometer combine to pull apart molecular compounds in drug evidence. The machine can then determine the type of drug being analyzed.

“The instrument separates things out into its individual components and then has a structured elucidating side to the instrument to determine what each component is,” Blaksmith explained.

Michigan State Police Public Information Officer Lt. Mark Giannunzio said fentanyl is still a fairly uncommon sight here in the U.P.

That does not mean, however, that fentanyl is not being found and sent to the Marquette Forensic Lab. In fact, Blaksmith noted an interesting trend in some of the drug evidence the lab is receiving.

“Heroin samples that used to come into the lab or powders that were considered heroin typically are not anymore,” Blaksmith said. “They are now typically a fentanyl product.”

Blaksmith explained fentanyl has been analyzed by the forensic labs in Lower Michigan for many years, while the Marquette Forensic Lab has only noticed it pop up over the last year and a half or so.

Blaksmith added that he believes the trend could increase, with the Marquette Forensic Lab possibly seeing more fentanyl over time.

To read part one of our series on fentanyl in Upper Michigan, you can find the article by clicking here.