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OSHA report ties cannabis worker death to dust inhalation

Published on October 3, 2022 · Last updated October 4, 2022
To make pre-rolls, employees grind cannabis flower into smaller pieces. Cannabis dust may be released in the process. (AdobeStock)

Over the past few days a disturbing report has surfaced regarding the death of a cannabis worker earlier this year in Massachusetts.

According to a report filed by officials with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a staff member at the Trulieve production facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was working a late shift grinding cannabis flower to make pre-rolls. At 11 p.m. on January 7, 2022, the employee reportedly said she couldn’t breathe due to all the airborne kief (cannabis dust) in the room. She was transported to a local hospital and died soon after.

“The employee could not breathe and was killed due to the hazards of ground cannabis dust,” the OSHA report concluded.

Lorna McMurrey, a 27-year-old staff member

Online reports have identified the staff member as Lorna L. McMurrey, 27, of West Springfield, MA. McMurrey’s obituary mentioned that she died “unexpectedly in Baystate Medical Center surrounded by her loving family, and that she “recently started working at Trulieve’s Grow Facility in Holyoke.”

Although McMurrey died in January, the circumstances surrounding her death have come to light only recently due to The Young Jurks, a Massachusetts podcast focused on politics and the state’s cannabis industry. The show’s hosts began raising questions about McMurrey’s death in podcast episodes published last month.

Trulieve response: Air quality in acceptable range

Leafly reached out to Trulieve officials for comment on the case. They responded with this statement:

“In January of this year, Trulieve experienced the loss of one of our team members, Lorna McMurrey, who was working in our Holyoke, Massachusetts facility. Our hearts go out to Ms. McMurrey’s family, friends, and colleagues as the circumstances around her passing have recently resurfaced, resulting in their having to re-experience their loss.”

“Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we are not going to provide any details as to the specifics of that day. However, OSHA conducted a thorough investigation of the Holyoke facility. PPE was available onsite. They tested the air quality throughout the facility and the samples were all well below acceptable ranges. OSHA did issue citations related to communication standards and Trulieve has contested those findings.”

“We cherish and value all of the 9,000 employees who make Trulieve a family and the safety of our team members is paramount to our core values.”  

A report that raises questions, offers few answers


The OSHA report, the only official document in the case so far, is frustratingly obscure. The Accidental Investigation Summary reads, in full:

“Filling pre-rolls She said she couldn’t breathe. Not being able to breathe Marijuana kief (dust) At 11:00 p.m. on January 7, 2022, an employee was grinding can nabis flowers, and packaging ground cannabis in pre-rolls. The employee could not breathe and was killed, due to the hazards of ground cannabis dust.”

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It’s unclear whether the OSHA investigator consulted McMurrey’s family and/or medical files. It’s also unclear whether OSHA inspected the room in which McMurrey was working, or spoke with co-workers or company officials. The sentence “The employee could not breathe and was killed, due to the hazards of ground cannabis dust” is alarming, both because of its vague nature and its potential implications for thousands of cannabis employees who grind flower and fill pre-rolls every day.

Dust, not smoke or vapor

It may be important to note that, according to the OSHA report, McMurrey was inhaling dust, not smoke or vapor. The inhalation of fine particulates at other workplaces—everything from flour factories to steel mills and construction sites—can lead to serious lung injuries and even death.

According to the OSHA report, the federal levied a penalty of $35,219 against Trulieve for workplace health and safety violations.

Trulieve is one of the cannabis industry’s largest companies, with more than 180 dispensaries in 11 states.

Leafly will continue to investigate this case and analyze its potential implications for cannabis workers and the entire industry.

This story was updated on Oct. 4 to include Trulieve’s response to the incident.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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