OSHA has levied a fine of more than $35,000 against Florida-based Trulieve in relation to the death of an employee at the company’s cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
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). According to the report, the employee died while producing pre-rolled joints at a marijuana production site in Holyoke, Massachusetts operated by Trulieve, a Florida-based vertically integrated cannabis company with operations in 11 states.
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. Local independent news site The Shoestring reports that indoor cannabis cultivators are particularly attracted to the city north of Springfield in western Massachusetts, which has relatively low electricity rates compared to other areas. 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.
The Trulieve employee’s death was first reported last week by the podcast The Young Jurks. Although the deceased worker was not identified in the OSHA investigation report, The Young Jurks identified the employee as 27-year-old Lorna L. McMurrey of West Springfield, Massachusetts. 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 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. I wish that I had been there to save her. Please look out for your people. Please educate yourselves.”
When asked about the death at the Trulieve cannabis cultivation facility, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia said on Sunday that it was the first he had heard about the incident. He added that he did not have any information and could not offer a comment on the situation.
“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 is an organizer at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459, a labor union that represents workers at a Holyoke cannabis production facility operated by Green Thumb Industries. He told local media that workers in the cannabis industry face a variety of workplace hazards.
“You’re doing farm work in a factory, so you have the health hazards associated with both farm and factory settings,” said Weisse.
Trulieve is licensed to grow up to 80,000 square feet of cannabis plants at its facility in Holyoke, which is located in a former Conklin Office Furniture factory building. The company also operates three cannabis retail stores in Massachusetts. Nationwide, Trulieve has operations in 11 states with legal cannabis, with leading market positions in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
A publicist for Trulieve told High Times the company was drafting a statement on the incident but declined to provide further comment.
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