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Cannabis company fined for worker death in Holyoke is closing up shop in Massachusetts

Globe Staff

Updated June 1, 2023, 8:03 p.m

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The marijuana company that settled with federal workplace safety regulators last year over the death of an employee who rolled joints at its growing and processing facility in Holyoke announced Thursday that it would close its dispensaries in Northampton, Framingham, and Worcester by June 30.

Trulieve Cannabis Corp. will also cease operations at its cultivation site in Holyoke by the end of the year, the company’s CEO Kim Rivers said in a written statement, citing the need for “additional measures to preserve cash and improve financial performance.”

“These difficult but necessary measures are part of ongoing efforts to bolster business resilience and our commitment to cash preservation as we continue to focus on our business strategy of going deep in our core markets and jettisoning non-contributive assets,” Rivers said. “We remain fully confident in our strategic position and the long-term prospects for the industry.”

After it closes up shop in Massachusetts, a Trulieve dispensary in Bristol, Conn., will be the company’s only location in New England.

The Florida-based company, whose dispensaries span nine states, will also close select retail locations in California, and will completely pull out of the Nevada wholesale market, the statement said.

In December, Trulieve paid just over $14,500 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to settle the case related to the January 2022 death of Lorna McMurrey. McMurrey, 27, was filling pre-rolled joints with ground marijuana when she told coworkers she couldn’t breathe and collapsed. The agency attributed her death to “occupational asthma due to exposure to ground cannabis” dust, but also exonerated Trulieve of direct responsibility, saying the company had not failed to protect its workers.

OSHA initially fined Trulieve more than $35,200 for several violations related to McMurrey’s death but eventually agreed to reduce the fine as part of a settlement. Advertisement The belated disclosure of McMurrey’s death nine months after it happened prompted widespread condemnation of Trulieve, including from a former supervisor for the company who said there was a culture of silence at the Holyoke plant that prevented workers from speaking up to executives about safety concerns.

Unionization efforts were underway at Trulieve’s Massachusetts sites. Marijuana employees, labor leaders, and cannabis advocates also criticized the state Cannabis Control Commission, which conceded in October that it was already investigating complaints from employees of the Holyoke facility when McMurrey collapsed.

The state marijuana agency has yet to report any updates or conclusions to its investigation. A commission spokeswoman said Thursday that the investigation is pending and ongoing. “The agency continues to collaborate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as well as local and federal agencies to gather evidence,” the spokeswoman said.

The Source, a marijuana shop in Northampton closed in December after only nine months of operations. It was reportedly the first dispensary in the state to shut down since the first legal adult-use dispensaries opened in 2018.

The Source was operated by Just Healthy LLC and run by a multistate operator based in Las Vegas. Many say the closures are a sign of the times in a maturing industry with increasingly difficult business conditions within the state, and growing competition elsewhere.

The advent of recreational sales in Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York is predicted to choke off the flow of out-of-state shoppers who previously made pilgrimages to Massachusetts dispensaries, depressing an important source of demand at the same time prices are falling. Advertisement Licensed marijuana companies employed around 22,000 workers as of December. The Massachusetts marijuana sector saw a banner year in 2022. Recreational sellers posted a record $1.42 billion in revenue through Dec. 18, up from $1.33 billion in 2021.

The Massachusetts marijuana industry earlier this year surpassed $4 billion in revenue since recreational sales began, a total that has also netted state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.


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