KOCI shuts down show

A Costa Mesa radio station shut down its weekly program on medical marijuana Sunday amid concerns that the show's host presented a one-sided view on a contentious topic, representatives said.

Not long before it was to air, the nonprofit KOCI 101.5 FM pulled the plug on "Cannabis Community," hosted by Robert Martinez, a former marijuana dispensary owner and Army veteran. However, a station official said the show had actually been canceled a week prior.

Controversy surrounded "Cannabis Community" after a Jan. 8 broadcast from a bar owned by Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan, who said on air that he supports legalizing and regulating the pot dispensaries operating in the city.

"We had a forum at Skosh Monahan's, and now everyone's pushing us," KOCI attorney Barry Jorgensen said. "We decided ... we don't want to be seen as pro-marijuana or pro-city."

Days after the mayor's statements, the Drug Enforcement Administration, local police and the U.S. attorney's office raided two Costa Mesa dispensaries and sent letters to more than 30 others — including Martinez's — with warnings that if they continued to operate, they would be targeted, too.

Federal authorities have said Monahan's statements and the raids were not connected.

A statement attributed to Martinez sent out by a KOCI employee claims Jorgensen and KOCI Station Manager Brent Kahlen shut down "Cannabis Community" at the urging of the FBI, which received complaints from the Chamber of Commerce and city officials.

Contacted by the Daily Pilot, representatives from the FBI and the chamber denied any involvement in the issue.

Martinez did not return calls for comment.

The businesses, including Martinez's now-closed dispensary, the Newport Mesa Patients Assn., are outlawed by city ordinances. The ordinances, however, are being challenged in court.

Jorgensen and Kahlen said no one pressured them to shut down the show, but they did say the raids on the clinics changed their thinking about the program.

"KOCI does not want to get in the middle of the fight," Jorgensen said.

The tiny station on East 17th Street urges its hosts to give both sides of an issue.

"We're not out to support any one entity," Kahlen said, arguing that he asked Martinez to schedule marijuana opponents for the show. "That's not what a nonprofit radio station is about … I don't think it's a community service to be one-sided."

The Newport Mesa Patients Assn. website describes "Cannabis Community" as educational, and a chance to listen and educate others "in the truth; the undeniable effectiveness and legitimacy of medicinal cannabis."

The show broadcast for about six months. Martinez was in the station Sunday and moments away from beginning his show when Kahlen kept him from broadcasting.

Sue Lester, a dispensary owner who was to be on Martinez's show Sunday, said that they were told "if it continued, [KOCI] might find it difficult to renew their license with the FCC."

The station's Federal Communications Commission license is up for renewal in December 2013, according to the FCC website.

Kahlen called the episode a miscommunication. He said Martinez's last show was a week earlier and didn't know he planned on returning for another one.

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