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Deceased Worker’s Mother Sues Trulieve for Wrongful Death
Published on December 1, 2023

The mother of a woman who died after a severe asthma attack while making pre-rolled joints for Trulieve is suing the multi-state operator for wrongful death.

The lawsuit was filed in Hampden County Superior Court in Massachusetts on Nov. 20 – just days after reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Health found there was a wider concern for asthmatic reactions from cannabis workers as more states move to legalize.


Lorna McMurrey, 27, collapsed while working at Trulieve’s Holyoke, Mass., production facility, in a room full of cannabis dust and possibly mold on Jan. 4, 2022. Three days later, she passed away. McMurrey suffered a similar asthma-related collapse in the same room about three months earlier, which her mother says should have been enough for the MSO to improve its worker safety standards.

The lawsuit from McMurrey’s next of kin alleges that Trulieve failed to properly respond to evident safety concerns after McMurrey developed breathing problems before her death. The suit also claims the MSO failed to properly design and install an HVAC system that would have properly ventilated the facility. The plaintiff claims that the system was prone to leaking, increasing the likelihood of mold accumulation.

The lawsuit alleges that McMurrey, along with her fellow workers, were not provided adequate safety equipment for breathing in a room full of cannabis dust and an industrial grinder that had previously been shown to have mold in it.

"The grinding machine involved in the incident was defectively designed with the ability for the machine to operate without its proper filter, thereby exposing workers to excessive airborne cannabis dust and/or mold particles," said the complaint. "The grinding machines were often operated without air filters, and were operated in this manner on the date of the incident.”

McMurrey had no prior history of asthma when she suffered her first attack in November, 2021. She was prescribed an inhaler after that incident, which she needed to use frequently throughout the day once she returned to work, according to the lawsuit.

Government reports warn of cannabis occupational dangers

The lawsuit came three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its report on health and safety in the legal cannabis industry.

The CDC reported that occupational allergic diseases, including asthma, are an emerging concern in the expanding legal cannabis industry as more states legalize medical or adult-use cannabis.

Washington State conducted a study in 2020 on occupational asthma related to cannabis, which found that 13 out of 31 employees at a single grow site developed asthma or asthma-like symptoms after prolonged exposure to ground cannabis.

"It is important to recognize that work in cannabis production is potentially causative," said the CDC’s report, which referenced the Washington State study.

The CDC’s report cited McMurrey's death as a case study that sparked their investigation, but after interviewing her coworkers and next of kin, the CDC found that four out of 10 coworkers with duties similar to McMurrey's also reported respiratory problems or skin irritation.

"[McMurrey’s mother] said that her daughter told her before her subsequent fatal asthma attack that the inhaler, which she used primarily at work, was nearly empty. This finding suggests that the employee had used most of the approximately 200 inhalations available in her inhaler over a period of approximately 2 months," said the CDC's report.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was already scrutinizing Trulieve’s Holyoke facility when McMurrey died, based on alleged safety concerns. OSHA eventually fined Trulieve $14,502 for failing to conduct a hazard analysis.

The Massachusetts Department of Health found that Trulieve failed to recognize that ground cannabis could be a potential respiratory hazard, failed to control the spread of airborne cannabis and failed to have a comprehensive safety and health program, in a report the state released on Nov. 16.

“Asthmagens such as cannabis have the potential to sensitize individuals and that process can lead to a more profound allergic response over time. The worker’s symptoms had progressed over time. She continued to work in a role that involved handling the ground cannabis. Further control of the hazard or removing the victim from this work environment could have prevented this fatality,” said the state’s report.

McMurrey was one of several employees who were responsible for grinding loose flower for use in pre-rolls, using what the state's Department of Health identified as a Mobius M210 commercial cannabis grinder.

Earlier this summer Trulieve announced that it was abandoning its licenses in Massachusetts in order to focus on newer, emerging markets. At the time, a spokesperson said the move had nothing to do with safety concerns at their Massachusetts facilities or McMurrey's death.

-- Zack Huffman, CRB Monitor News

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