Business

Trulieve promoted safety manager after factory worker’s death: Source

By Alex Halperin
Oct 10, 2022
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A month after Holyoke, Mass. worker Lorna McMurrey, 27, died of cannabis dust inhalation, [Update 10/13/22: OSHA no longer lists a cause of death on its public report.]  Trulieve promoted the facility’s environment, health and safety manager, McMurrey’s former supervisor said in interviews with WeedWeek and podcast The Young Jurks. [

  • The promoted manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (At this time we are not publishing their name.)

Danny Carson, who hired McMurrey and supervised her for several months, described the promotion as indicative of a disregard for for worker safety at Florida-based Trulieve, one of the country’s largest cannabis companies. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), McMurrey died in January from inhaling cannabis dust (kief) while making prerolls. She’s the first known fatality from that cause. 

Lorna McMurrey
Lorna McMurrey died of kief inhalation on January 7

In a statement issued last week, Trulieve declined to comment on the specifics of McMurrey’s death but said PPE was available onsite and that OSHA found air quality tests to be within acceptable ranges. After McMurrey’s death, OSHA issued the company more than $35,000 in fines related to communications.

Trulieve, which is contesting the fines, declined to comment further for this story, citing its work with OSHA. It appears not to have made any public comment about McMurrey until The Young Jurks podcast broke the news of her death in September.

A “gentle” and “beautiful” person

Carson, told WeedWeek that he hired Lorna in the Spring of 2021 and supervised her until he quit his job the following August. He described McMurrey as a “gentle,” “beautiful” person and a strong worker.

Carson disputed Trulieve’s statement that personal protective equipment was available at the factory. Carson, who said he’s a six-year Air Force veteran who also worked for a large vehicle manufacturing company, said the available masks, were for covid prevention, not the respirators used by industrial workers.

The covid masks don’t make a tight grip around the face to keep out particle matter, he said. “They are not sufficient to help their employees with breathing.” He described the lack of access to respirators as standard within the cannabis industry.

In a Saturday interview with The Young Jurks, Carson said Trulieve employees had access to “cultivation protective equipment,” to protect the product.

  • “Gloves are not personal protective equipment,” he said. “A hairnet is not personal productive equipment.”
  • Trade groups U.S. Cannabis Council and the National Cannabis Industry Association did not respond to a request for comment about respirators within the industry. 
  • Khadijah Tribble, US Cannabis Council CEO, extended “her deepest condolences to the family, friends, and coworkers of Ms. McMurrey and remains committed on behalf of USCC to fostering a safe and responsible cannabis industry.” She’s also an executive at Trulieve competitor Curaleaf.
  • “While this is an ongoing case, all I have to say is that I’m deeply saddened to learn of Ms. McMurrey’s passing and are watching the case closely,” NCIA executive Director Aaron Smith said. [Smith’s and Tribble’s comments added in an update 10/10/2022]

The night McMurrey died wasn’t the first time she left the Trulieve factory in an ambulance, Carson said, citing a factory worker who was there the night it happened.

  • The exact circumstances and date are unclear, but the comment echoed McMurrey’s friend Faith Torres who told Western Mass News, “There was one point where she did have an asthma attack and she was brought from there to the hospital. That’s when she found out that she had asthma. She’d never had it before.”
  • Lorna’s stepfather previously said she asked him for extra masks from his job as a mechanic.

Carson said that in their time working together he never saw McMurrey use an inhaler or show other signs of having asthma.

  • He described poor air quality as inherent in commercial cannabis production. At his current job in flower production at a Massachusetts cannabis company he didn’t name, he said there are days when he and his team members need to take leave the room, put on a mask or take Benadryl.

Carson described Trulieve’s corporate culture as one where lower level employees are scared to speak up, including on matters of personal safety. He said he left the company after “I was screamed at by my boss and told to stay in my lane when I caught someone stealing cannabis product from the facility.”

  • As far as Carson knew, no one at the facility, including security staff, had been trained in emergency contingency plans or CPR. 

A current worker at the factory previously told WeedWeek that the night Lorna died, emergency personnel had been delayed by an understaffed security team and a delay while staff determined whether they could enter the factory without wearing clean room gear.

  • Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission said it is investigating McMurrey’s death. Neither it nor Trulieve would say whether the agency was aware of it before The Young Jurks first discussed it.

Employees at large companies have often signed non-disclosure agreements that blocked them from speaking publicly about sensitive issues. Asked if he signed one, Carson said he might have, but, “They killed my friend.”