Trulieve Leaving Massachusetts Amid Pushback for Occupational Health Hazards

June 12, 2023


Brenda Quintana, MassCOSH Organizer
(857) 301-7763

Trulieve Leaving Massachusetts Amid Pushback for Occupational Health Hazards

BOSTON Recently, Trulieve announced that it plans to cease its cannabis operations in all of its Massachusetts facilities by the end of 2023, which include three dispensaries in Northampton, Framingham and Worcester and its growing and processing facility in Holyoke. Workers across the state are being given until June 30th before they no longer need to report to work. The closures are set to impact 128 workers.

Workers and advocates have increasingly spoken up about health and safety concerns following the death of Holyoke worker Lorna McMurrey in 2022. Lorna developed occupationally-induced asthma and suffered a fatal asthma attack in January of 2022. Despite Trulieve being cited and fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers continued to be exposed to many of the same health and safety risks that were persistent at the time of Lorna’s death, mainly the lack of proper ventilation and access to fit-tested respirators.

MassCOSH spotlighted Trulieve and Lorna’s death in our 2023 Dying for Work report. National COSH also listed Trulieve on their 2023 Dirty Dozen report. In Massachusetts, workers, advocates, and occupational health and safety experts came together to form the Coalition for Cannabis Worker Safety to push for better working conditions and call for the Cannabis Control Commission to incorporate worker safety and health requirements into the licensing process.

This summer, Trulieve was scheduled to have a NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) at their Holyoke facility, following the recommendation from OSHA. The Coalition for Cannabis Worker Safety looked forward to the investigation, because it would have contributed necessary research on the extent of hazards facing cannabis workers and offered critical recommendations on how to improve workplace safety. However, it is expected that the HHE will no longer move forward at the Trulieve facility.

Trulieve cited two reasons for shutting down in Massachusetts. One is the overall financial reorganization. The other reason, reported by MassLive, is Massachusetts’ strict regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides and quality. However, for workers and advocates who have called on Trulieve to improve working conditions and meaningfully address the ways they have put workers’ lives and health at risk, it also appears that Trulieve is evading accountability to improve working conditions.

Just because Trulieve is closing down in Massachusetts, the unsafe practices that existed in Holyoke likely persist across their cultivation and processing facilities in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Danny Carson, a former Trulieve employee and worker activist shared, “For the workers that remain for the next two weeks - and for all cannabis workers -, it’s important to know that seeing mold and mushrooms when you’re harvesting flower is not acceptable. Grinding flower without ventilation is not safe. None of this is ethical, none of this is quality, and none of this is healthy for the workers or the consumers. All of these things are commonplace at Trulieve. Workers need to remember that they have the power to change the status quo by coming together, and by holding leaders in this industry accountable.”

A statewide response is necessary to ensure that all cannabis companies are held to the same high standards and scrutiny for their working conditions in order to operate safely in Massachusetts. More importantly, a national worker-led response needs to be mobilized to prevent bad-actors like Trulieve from exploiting workers in states where regulations protecting worker health and safety are weak or nonexistent.

"We must ensure that these workers are not left high and dry as a result of poor business decisions, such as Trulieve's. Workers should receive severance pay and access to critical benefits like unemployment and workers' compensation, for those injured or made sick” said MassCOSH Chief of Strategy & Engagement Al Vega. “The Cannabis Control Commission must have additional enforcement authority along with dedicated health and safety expertise so that employees have protections from hazardous exposures in this industry, including retaliation when speaking up about those hazards.”