Pot company to pay $350K fine over worker’s death at Holyoke plant

AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL

AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 06-17-2024 1:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A leading cannabis company has agreed to pay a $350,000 fine to the Cannabis Control Commission to settle allegations that lax safety protocols at its Holyoke production plant led to the death of a worker there in January 2022.

The commission had levied a proposed fine of $502,500 against Trulieve Cannabis Corp. last year for the alleged safety violations.

Lorna McMurrey, 27, died in January 2022 after collapsing following a second asthma attack while working at the Trulieve Cannabis Corp.’s Holyoke processing facility, according to the lawsuit. It was the first reported occupational death in the U.S. cannabis industry.

Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in November against the corporation, a health and safety manager, and a contractor. That suit is pending in Hampden Superior Court.

Trulieve, with more than 200 dispensaries, is the world’s largest cannabis retailer and the fourth largest cannabis company in the U.S. by revenue, according to financial technology company Stash. It pulled out of Massachusetts last year, closing dispensaries in Northampton, Framingham and Worcester along with its Holyoke production plant.

In settling with the state’s cannabis commission, Trulieve stated that it neither admitted nor denied the panel’s findings that it failed to comply with numerous workplace safety operating procedures, particularly with regard to respiratory hazards. It did not provide production workers with respirators, require them to undergo medical evaluation, fitness training, or training on the proper use of respiratory equipment, according to the commission’s findings.

Investigators asserted that Trulieve failed to process marijuana in a safe and sanitary manner for more than a year, operating machines that generated substantial amounts of marijuana dust in a small, fully enclosed room without policies or adequate personal protective equipment.

Acknowledging that Trulieve has already surrendered all its Massachusetts licenses, the commission stipulated that those licenses “shall be deemed to have been relinquished in good standing.”

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The $350,000 fine will be directed to the commission’s Marijuana Regulation Fund.

Staff Writer James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.