First asthma-linked death highlights hazards at marijuana-processing plants

PLUS: Cannabis company disciplined for worker death exits state blaming poor business

MEDICAL XPRESS – A young woman working at a Massachusetts cannabis-processing facility who developed new-onset asthma and later died of a fatal asthma attack is the first such fatality in the burgeoning industry, a new report finds.

Researchers believe large amounts of allergen-laden dust created at these facilities could pose real respiratory dangers to workers.

When it comes to asthma and the danger to employees, “it is important to recognize that work in cannabis production is potentially causative,” said a team led by Dr. Virginia Weaver, of the U.S. Department of Labor.

In its case report, Weaver’s team said the 27-year-old female employee began working at a Massachusetts cannabis cultivation and processing facility in late May of 2021.

She had no history of asthma but, according to her mother, “she developed work-related runny nose, cough and shortness of breath after 3-4 months of employment,” the report found.

“Multiple respiratory hazards have been identified in the cannabis cultivation and production industry.”

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The woman first worked in the area where the cannabis was ground, but by Oct. 1 she’d moved to “flower production,” grinding cannabis plant flowers and preparing cannabis cigarettes.

Dust “visibly escaped” into the air, even though a (non-HEPA) shop vacuum was used to collect dust from the grinder.

The woman did wear an N95 mask and protective gloves while working, but as her symptoms worsened her workstation was moved to outside the grinding room.

However, on Nov. 9 she had an asthma attack that required her to be taken by EMS to a local emergency department. She recovered, and doctors prescribed an albuterol nebulizer.

Later investigation indicated her nebulizer was likely used over 200 times over the next two months …

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Trulieve, cannabis company disciplined for worker death exits state blaming poor business

Jun. 01, 2023

HOLYOKE, MASS. — Trulieve Cannabis Corp. announced Thursday it expects to cease its Massachusetts operations by the end of 2023, closing its shops in Northampton, Framingham and Worcester by June 30. The move also includes the closure of its growing and processing facility in Holyoke.

The company has 128 employees in Massachusetts.

That Holyoke facility at 56 Canal St. is where Lorna McMurrey, 27, worked before dying in 2022 of breathing problems that were blamed on inhaling cannabis dust at the facility.

In December, Florida-based Trulieve paid $14,502 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to settle the case.

In Northampton, Trulieve opened on North King Street in 2021.

It’s part of a national retrenchment for Trulieve — a publicly held company traded on the Toronto stock exchange as TRUL — and another sign that the state’s legal marijuana market is losing its buzz.

Trulieve also said Thursday that it will close of selection of California retail assets and exit the Nevada wholesale market … READ MORE. 


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