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Mass. Cannabis Regulator Confirms It Learned About Workplace-Related Death in January

In response to an inquiry, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has confirmed that it first learned about the work-related death of Trulieve employee Lorna McMurrey “on or around January 10.” McMurrey, who worked at Trulieve’s cultivation facility in Holyoke, died January 7, 2022, of “occupational asthma due to exposure to ground cannabis,” according to OSHA following an investigation it opened January 11.

“The agency follows up on concerns and allegations such as whistleblower and citizen complaints pertaining to regulatory violations by licensees,” a commission spokesperson told CBE in a statement received late Friday via email. “In general, the Commission conducts on-site inspections in response to complaints. The Commission continues to actively investigate Trulieve in Holyoke. The investigation originated in the Fall of 2021 due to employee complaints. During that time, Trulieve has been responsive to agency requests for information.

“The Commission became aware of Ms. McMurrey’s passing on or around January 10, 2022, and has collaborated with state and federal agencies, including the state Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has primary jurisdiction of incidents involving workplace safety,” continued the statement. “Due to the nature of this investigation, the agency has no further comment at this time.”

Friday’s statement to CBE appears to be a reconsideration of the commission’s earlier reticence to address certain aspects of this tragic incident while official probes are underway. “Because a Cannabis Control Commission investigation is still ongoing, neither [Commissioner] O’Brien nor Stebbins was willing to say whether Trulieve had notified commission staff and the information had not made it back to commissioners, or whether the company had failed to notify the CCC at all,” reported Shira Schoenberg for CommonWealth. “Asked whether commission staff knew, Cedric Sinclair, communications director for the agency, said the cannabis commission ‘can’t provide information on a pending ongoing investigation.'”

The statement also explains why individual commissioners were not made aware of McMurrey’s death when it was first reported. “To avoid pre-judging any applicant or licensee, Cannabis Control Commissioners are not customarily privy to investigations that are being performed at the staff level,” states the CCC. “If an investigation leads to an administrative enforcement action, Commissioners hold a place as ultimate arbiter in any appeal procedure.”

In addition to the CCC and OSHA investigations, reported Schoenberg, “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Surveillance Program is also investigating the death as part of its Massachusetts Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Project, or FACE. DPH has not said when that investigation began.” Schoenberg added that FACE reports can take years to conclude, however.

Trulieve today responded to a request for comment with the following statement: “As previously shared, we properly reported the incident of an employee collapsing in one of our facilities within 24 hours to the Massachusetts CCC back in January when it occurred. We appreciate the Massachusetts CCC confirming as much in their statement to refute an erroneous story that was published online.”

Replying to an email from CBE noting that the CCC statement does not mention a collapse, Trulieve reiterated that it complied with the 24-hour notice reporting requirement set by the state for the collapsing incident, and has the documentation to prove it.

CBE has a request for clarification out to the CCC, and will post its reply if one is received.

The full CCC statement is below:

The Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) sends our deepest condolences to Lorna McMurrey’s family, friends, co-workers, and loved ones. The Commission takes the safety and welfare of Registered Agents, patients, and consumers seriously and has been and will continue to coordinate with public health officials to understand any contributing circumstances.

The agency follows up on concerns and allegations such as whistleblower and citizen complaints pertaining to regulatory violations by licensees. In general, the Commission conducts on-site inspections in response to complaints. 

The Commission continues to actively investigate Trulieve in Holyoke. The investigation originated in the Fall of 2021 due to employee complaints. During that time, Trulieve has been responsive to agency requests for information. The Commission became aware of Ms. McMurrey’s passing on or around January 10, 2022, and has collaborated with state and federal agencies, including the state Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has primary jurisdiction of incidents involving workplace safety. Due to the nature of this investigation, the agency has no further comment at this time.

To avoid pre-judging any applicant or licensee, Cannabis Control Commissioners are not customarily privy to investigations that are being performed at the staff level. If an investigation leads to an administrative enforcement action, Commissioners hold a place as ultimate arbiter in any appeal procedure. 

Tom Hymes

Tom Hymes

Tom Hymes, CBE Senior Editor, is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor with over 20 years’ experience covering highly regulated industries. He was born and raised in New York City. He can be reached at [email protected].

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