Trulieve cites market squeeze in closing up Mass. pot shops

  • A convention visitor examines a marijuana sample at the New England Cannabis Convention in Boston, March 25, 2018. AP FILE PHOTO

Published: 6/5/2023 5:53:33 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After two years of operation in the state, cannabis company Trulieve has announced it will close its three dispensaries in Massachusetts, including one in Northampton, as well as its Holyoke cultivation business, citing a multimillion-dollar loss in the value of its operations due to competitive pressures.

The announcement comes following controversy after the death of a worker, Lorna McMurrey, at Trulieve’s Holyoke facility in January 2022. McMurrey died from an asthma attack after inhaling ground cannabis dust while on the job.

The Florida company was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and had to pay $14,500 as a result of the incident, although Trulieve was ultimately cleared of direct responsibility.

“These difficult but necessary measures are part of ongoing efforts to bolster business resilience and our commitment to cash preservation,” said Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve, in a statement last week. “We remain fully confident in our strategic position and the long term prospects for the industry.”

In filings made over the past month to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trulieve noted that an oversaturation of cannabis-related businesses in Massachusetts had made the state difficult to maneuver in.

“During the three months ended March 31, 2023, the Company determined that certain long-lived assets, including intangible assets, in Massachusetts were impaired due to the competitive environment in the Massachusetts cannabis industry,” the company said in its most recent quarterly report filed with the SEC.

The company also noted in its quarterly statement that its Massachusetts operations had seen their value decrease by $30 million over the past year, which it mainly attributed to “intangible assets.” Intangible assets refer to non-physical aspects such as brand recognition, customer loyalty and intellectual property that determine a company’s value.

As part of the company’s agreement with OSHA, Trulieve was required to conduct a study to determine whether ground cannabis dust is to be classified as a hazardous chemical while in an occupational setting, expected to be completed by the end of May. Trulieve did not immediately respond to requests for updated information on that study.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission said in a statement to the Gazette that it was continuing to investigate Trulieve regarding the fatality in Holyoke.

“The Cannabis Control Commission investigation regarding Trulieve in Holyoke is pending with staff work still ongoing,” a CCC spokesperson said. “The agency continues to collaborate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as well as local and federal agencies to gather evidence.”

In the wake of McMurrey’s death, workers for Trulieve across the state had begun to organize and push for unionization to join local chapters of the United Food & Commercial Workers. This includes UFCW Local 1459, representing workers in western Massachusetts.

Drew Weisse, an organizing director of Local 1459, said that the union did not have a statement on the closures for the time being.

In addition to the incident at the Holyoke facility, Trulieve has been subject to OSHA complaints in other states where it has facilities, including several in Florida and one in Pennsylvania, where a worker was electrocuted and hospitalized after being exposed to a live wire.

Trulieve first opened in Massachusetts in early June 2021 amid a wave of other cannabis businesses opening up across the state after legalization. It will be closing its three dispensaries — in Worcester, Framingham and at 216 North King St. in Northampton — effective June 30. The company said it plans on closing its Holyoke facility at the end of the year.

Trulieve becomes the second dispensary in Northampton to close, after The Source on Strong Avenue ceased operations in December. The closure will also free up an available marijuana retail license after the city imposed a cap on licenses last January, shortly after The Source’s closure.

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra declined to comment when contacted Monday.

Easthampton dispensary Pleasantrees closed in February.

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