COSTA MESA – The “Cannabis Community” radio program on KOCI FM/101.5 was canceled by the station’s management shortly before it was to air 11 a.m. Sunday. As a non-profit, community radio station, KOCI “is required to remain neutral on controversial topics,” General Manager Brent Kahlen said in an email to the Register. “Cannabis Community” was hosted by U.S. Army veteran Robert Martinez, the former president of the Newport Mesa Patients Association, a medical marijuana provider. Last month, the United States Attorney’s Office sent letters to Martinez and about three dozen other owners and operators of medical marijuana stores in the city, ordering them to close shop as part of a federal enforcement operation.
“In light of Martinez’s difficulties with federal authorities in recent weeks, KOCI management felt it was in the community interest that the radio station no longer broadcast the ‘Cannabis Community,'” Kahlen wrote. Ten minutes before the broadcast on Sunday, Martinez said KOCI legal counsel Barry Jorgensen told him “Cannabis Community” had to be moved to a new time slot. Later, he learned the show would not air at all, he said.
“We were all blow away,” Martinez said Sunday afternoon. “It was mind-boggling. … I’m sitting here still flabbergasted.” Martinez and the scheduled guest of Sunday’s show, Sue Lester, sent out a press release Sunday afternoon that said federal officials influenced the station’s decision. Kahlen and Jorgensen both said that was not true. Kahlen said that he did not speak directly to Martinez.
Jorgensen conceded he had communicated with Martinez in an “inelegant manner,” and apologized for the misunderstandings in the statement from KOCI. Kahlen said KOCI remains committed to providing fair access to all points of view. Federal authorities recently raided three medical marijuana establishments in Costa Mesa and ordered the rest to be shut down.
Mayor Gary Monahan said he supported regulating medical marijuana dispensaries on a Jan. 8 broadcast of “Cannabis Community” from his bar, Skosh Monahan’s. Kahlen said he had received good feedback about the program in emails. KOCI has been on the air for 3 1/2 years. As of two years ago when the last ratings poll was taken, the community station had 42,000 listeners across Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Corona del Mar.
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