Cannabis giant fined over death of worker

Trulieve worker death fine: lady justice statue over weed nugs

No one has died from consuming cannabis alone, that we’ve heard of. However, in 2022, Trulieve employee Lorna McMurrey passed away following an asthma attack at the facility, which sparked a first-of-its-kind cannabis industry lawsuit.

As a wrongful death case filed by McMurrey’s family moves through the process, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (MCCC) finalized a settlement against the weed giant. Both MCCC and Trulieve agreed to a $350,000 fine in late May, and the weed giant accepted the amount last week.

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McMurrey worked for Trulieve’s Holyoke facility for seven months before the incident. Five months into the job, she was moved to pre-roll processing, which entailed grinding large quantities of flower for three 15-minute periods a day.

The position also meant regularly breathing in a “substantial amount” of cannabis dust particles and mold, according to the wrongful death suit. The recent fine levied against the multi-state operator (MSO) resulted from the lack of worker protections at the facility, both before and after McMurrey’s death.

Reports of negligence in the workplace

A November 2023 Center for Disease Control report on the matter identified key places where worker protections could have been put in place to avoid McMurrey’s death. The day she passed, she suffered an asthma attack on the job. But it was not her first. Two months earlier, McMurrey experienced an asthma attack while grinding Trulieve bud for joints.

Following the first respiratory event, MCCC cited that McMurrey coughed frequently and often had to leave the workspace to use her inhaler. MCCC identified that Trulieve failed to adjust unsafe work conditions, change ventilation, provide respirators to workers, or identify asthmatic McMurrey as a “high-risk worker” and change her role or daily duties in the resulting settlement.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Trulieve just over $14k following an inspection of the workspace and McMurrey’s death. Following the CDC report, the MCCC upped the fine to $350,000. Funds will be allocated to the same pot as the cannabis tax revenue.

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Trulieve pulled out of the Massachusetts market in 2022, six months after McMurrey’s death. A spokesperson cited financial reorganization and strict pesticide regulation. In the same restructuring, the MSO downsized its California presence and withdrew from the Nevada wholesale market.

This is the first case of its kind in the American cannabis industry, setting standards for worker protection where most policy focuses on rigorous packaging, advertising, and public safety. As new states come online and legal access grows, so will the amount of cannabis workers–and if McMurrey’s death is any indicator, more protections may be needed for those doing the packaging.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.