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Worker at Massachusetts Cannabis Producer Dies from Inhaling Cannabis Dust

An employee at a Massachusetts cannabis production facility died earlier this year from inhaling cannabis dust while working, according to a preliminary inspection report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The report states that the worker died in the production of pre-rolled marijuana joints in Holyoke (Massachusetts) at Trulieve, an integrated vertically-rooted cannabis company based in Florida.

In its report, which is subject to amendment 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 levied fines totaling more than $35,000 against Trulieve in connection with the employee’s death. 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.

Holyoke’s civic leaders have welcomed Massachusetts’ regulated cannabis industry to set up shop in the city’s many vacant industrial buildings, issuing 72 licenses to cultivate, manufacture, and retail cannabis products to businesses operating in the jurisdiction, according to data from the state Cannabis Control Commission. The Shoestring, a local independent news website reports that indoor marijuana growers are attracted to Springfield in western Massachusetts because of its low electricity prices. Holyoke is one of the nation’s first planned industrial cities, allowing it to provide affordable electrical power produced via a dam and municipal canal system.

A co-worker alleges mismanagement at Trulieve Facility Massachusetts

The Trulieve employee’s death was first reported last week by the podcast The Young Jurks. The OSHA investigation did not identify the worker, but The Young Jurks named the victim as Lorna McMurrey, 27, from West Springfield, Massachusetts. The Young Jurks posted a YouTube video that included a statement by a former colleague who claimed mismanagement at Trulieve.

“Lorna McMurrey tragically passed away while processing keif 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. It would have been so nice to be there for her. Your people are important to you. Please educate yourselves.”

Joshua Garcia of Holyoke, the mayor of Holyoke, stated that the Trulieve marijuana cultivation facility was responsible for the accident. He said that he didn’t have any details and couldn’t comment.

“This is news to me and I’m very shocked to hear this,” he wrote in a text message sent to a reporter for The Shoestring.

Drew Weisse, an organizer with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 14,59 is a labor union representing workers at Holyoke’s Green Thumb Industries cannabis manufacturing facility. Local media reported that cannabis workers face many workplace dangers.

“You’re doing farm work in a factory, so you have the health hazards associated with both farm and factory settings,” said Weisse.

Trulieve can grow cannabis in Holyoke up to 80,000 feet in its licensed facility. It is housed in an ex-Conklin Office Furniture Factory building. It also owns three Massachusetts cannabis retail shops. Trulieve is a national cannabis retailer with operations in 11 legal states. The company has strong market positions in Arizona (Florida) and Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania).

Trulieve’s publicist told Chronic NewsThe company had been working on a statement about the incident, but they declined to comment further.