The first death from occupational asthma in the U.S. cannabis production industry took the life of a worker in Massachusetts, federal health and safety officials said.
The 27-year-old woman was working at a cannabis cultivation and processing facility when she experienced work-related worsening respiratory symptoms that culminated in a fatal asthma attack in January 2022, authorities said in a federal report published Thursday. Went. The report notes that allergic diseases such as asthma are a growing concern in the US cannabis industry, which has grown rapidly in recent years due to a wave of state-level legalization.
The report said the employee’s death “reflects missed opportunities for prevention, including workplace exposure, medical monitoring, and treatment in accordance with current asthma guidelines.”
The report also says evaluation of workers with new-onset or worsening asthma in cannabis facilities is necessary. The report said this approach could help prevent workplace deaths when paired “with prompt diagnosis and medical management.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the report, saying it represents the findings of a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection that included workplace risk assessments, coworker and next-of-kin interviews, medical record review, and collaboration. Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The report does not name the employee or the Massachusetts facility. However, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported in a filing last year that an employee at cannabis company Trulieve’s Holyoke location who was packaging ground cannabis into pre-rolls suffered an asthma attack and later died in the hospital. happened. Trulieve identified the worker last year as 27-year-old Lorna McMurray.
Representatives for Trulieve did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The report cites studies that identify respiratory hazards, such as microbial and plant allergens, in the hemp cultivation and production industry. The report also states that chemicals, such as pesticides and allergens in particular, can be a threat to the hemp plant.
This discovery has led to the legalization of recreational marijuana, and the resulting expanding growth of the cannabis industry. About half of the states allow adult recreational use of marijuana. Legalization began in Washington and Colorado in 2012 and has only accelerated.
Safety advocates in the marijuana industry have called for more safeguards to ensure that cannabis businesses do not put workers or the public at risk.
The death of the Massachusetts worker “should be a big red flag to lawmakers that we need to put more guardrails around that industry,” said cannabis industry watchdog Scott Gagnon, who advocates for substance abuse prevention in Maine. does, where marijuana has been legal for many years.
The industry wants to be as safe as possible, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a marijuana law reform group. “The likelihood of such incidents is greatly reduced in environments where cannabis businesses are licensed, regulated and It is necessary to follow.” “Same as other workplace safety rules and standards.”
“Furthermore, when such incidents do occur, regulated markets ensure that they are appropriately investigated and corrective actions are taken to prevent future incidents,” Armentano said.
Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press