Spotlight on Massachusetts
Time to Update Your Worker Safety Plan!
OSHA Fines Trulieve $35,000+ in Connection with Holyoke Employee’s Death
Earlier this year, an employee at a licensed cannabis manufacturing facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts tragically died, allegedly from inhaling cannabis particles at work. The employee’s death was first reported in early October by the podcast “The Young Jurks” and has since received mainstream press coverage in Massachusetts as well as in the cannabis industry media. 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. Ms. McMurrey was employed by Florida-based multi-state operator, Trulieve Cannabis. Trulieve spokesperson Rob Kremer shared a statement with media outlet, MJBizDaily to address the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. McMurrey.
Previous reports indicated that Ms. McMurrey tragically passed away from inhaling cannabis particles while processing keif in Trulieve’s manufacturing facility, however, subsequent investigations have spurred questions about the circumstances surrounding her death and whether it was truly caused by “mismanagement” and/or unsafe working conditions at the facility. Indeed, Trulieve is disputing the fines levied by OSHA in June 2022, which totaled more than $35,000, 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.
According to Mr. Kremer, McMurrey told her supervisor she was unwell but continued to work despite being told she could take a sick day with pay. After McMurrey showed signs of distress, the company called 911 and three employees who had been trained a month earlier administered CPR. Emergency medical service arrived “quickly and took over management of the response,” giving McMurrey medical attention within “less than one minute.” The employee was transferred to a hospital, where she died three days later on Jan. 7, 2022.
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. Though Trulieve has said they believe they “have demonstrated a safe and healthy work environment . . . [they] will of course work with OSHA and the Massachusetts CCC to address their concerns.” Ms. McMurrey’s tragic death has prompted many cannabis businesses across the United States to take a fresh look at their workplace safety plans, personal protective equipment supplies, emergency response training programs, and hazard communication standards.
Ms. McMurrey’s death is a tragedy and serves as a wake up call for cannabis businesses to get serious about implementing and maintaining compliant hazard communication and safety plans for your teams. RZA Legal is a women-owned boutique cannabis business law firm and we are proud to serve cannabis business clients in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and New York. Our dedicated legal professionals are here to help your cannabis business, beginning with a comprehensive review of your safety standards and compliance with OSHA requirements. You don’t want to get stuck in an expensive retainer with a local law firm who does not even speak the lingo of commercial cannabis and pay to get them up to speed on all the legal and regulatory issues that the cannabis industry presents. We have been representing entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized licensed cannabis businesses since 2015. Whether you are just starting out or wanting to ensure your current business is compliant with the changing regulations, we are here to assist! We proudly offer flat fee pricing and discounts for social equity participants. Please schedule a consultation here. We can’t wait to work with you.
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