A former supervisor at a Trulieve cannabis cultivation and processing operation in Massachusetts says that the company promoted the site’s environment, health and safety manager only one month after a worker reportedly died from inhaling marijuana dust at the facility, according to reports from WeedWeek and the podcast The Young Jurks. Trulieve is a Florida-based vertically integrated cannabis company with operations in 11 states.
Late last month, The Young Jurks revealed that Trulieve employee Lorna McMurrey died after inhaling dust from cannabis while she was producing pre-rolled joints at the company’s facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts. After an investigation, Trulieve was fined more than $35,000 for violations at the Holyoke facility, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After news of the incident broke and nine months after McMurrey’s death, Trulieve confirmed the report on October 3.
“In January of this year, Trulieve experienced the loss of one of our team members, Lorna McMurrey, who was working in our Holyoke, Massachusetts facility,” the company wrote in an email statement to High Times. “Our hearts go out to Ms. McMurrey’s family, friends, and colleagues as the circumstances around her passing have recently resurfaced, resulting in their having to re-experience their loss.”
“Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we are not going to provide any details as to the specifics of that day. However, OSHA conducted a thorough investigation of the Holyoke facility. PPE was available onsite,” Trulieve continued in its statement. “They tested the air quality throughout the facility and the samples were all well below acceptable ranges. OSHA did issue citations related to communication standards and Trulieve has contested those findings. We cherish and value all of the 9,000 employees who make Trulieve a family and the safety of our team members is paramount to our core values.”
Former Supervisor Disputes Trulieve
But Danny Carson, a former Trulieve supervisor who hired McMurrey in spring 2021 and supervised her until he left the company the following August, disputed Trulieve’s statement that protective equipment was available to employees working at the Holyoke facility. He said that the face masks at the cannabis cultivation and processing operation were for protection from COVID-19 rather than respirators designed for workers in industrial settings. The masks employees were given, he added, did not fit the face tight enough to keep out particulates in the air.
“They are not sufficient to help their employees with breathing,” Carson told WeedWeek.
In an interview with The Young Jurks over the weekend, Carson said that “cultivation protective equipment” was given to workers to protect the product rather than the employees.
“Gloves are not personal protective equipment,” he said. “A hairnet is not personal productive equipment.”
Carson also said that Trulieve had promoted the Holyoke facility’s environment, health and safety manager a month after McMurrey’s death. The promoted manager, who was not identified, did not respond to a request for comment from WeedWeek.
OSHA Fined Facility More Than $35,000
In its report, which has not yet been finalized by the agency, OSHA investigators wrote that an employee was grinding cannabis flower to be packaged into pre-rolls on January 7 when she “said she couldn’t breathe.” Although the report provides few details on the incident, the OSHA investigation determined that the unidentified “employee could not breathe and was killed, due to the hazards of ground cannabis dust.” The report also mentioned that the inhaled dust contained marijuana kief, which are detached cannabis trichomes, the glands that produce THC and other active compounds found in marijuana.
In June, OSHA assessed fines totaling more than $35,000 against Trulieve in connection with McMurrey’s death, although she was not identified in the report. The three violations cited by OSHA are categorized as “serious,” with the agency alleging that Trulieve violated federal regulations requiring that companies maintain a written hazard communication plan, keep safety data sheets on hazardous chemicals and provide information and training on those chemicals.
The Young Jurks first reported McMurrey’s death in a podcast live-streamed in late September. In a post on YouTube, The Young Jurks shared a statement from an unidentified former co-worker who alleged mismanagement at the Trulieve facility.
“Lorna McMurrey tragically passed away while processing kief in Trulieve’s Holyoke, MA manufacturing facility,” the former employee said. “I had quit about a month prior to her passing due to the horrific management and corruption that I witnessed daily as a supervisor within the facility. I wish that I had been there to save her. Please look out for your people. Please educate yourselves.”
WeedWeek reported that the cannabis industry trade groups the U.S. Cannabis Council and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) did not respond to a request for comment about the possible need for respirators for workers in the cannabis industry.
“While this is an ongoing case, all I have to say is that I’m deeply saddened to learn of Ms. McMurrey’s passing and are watching the case closely,” said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith.