The Plot Sickens – Medical Marijuana Program Muzzled on KOCI, 4th update!


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Since this story just keeps getting weirder and weirder, I’m going to arrange this post like the OC Weekly’s Navel Gazing Blog does, with the latest update at the top. ERGO: If the story is new to you, start at the bottom!

UPDATE 4, Monday night:

Genesis of the mysterious press release.

The KOCI employee who sent me the e-mail early this morning, claiming that Martinez wrote the ostensible KOCI press release but that it was factual, is Milo Schiff.  Martinez and I were reluctant to name him as Milo was obviously fearful for his job, but that cat is out of the bag.

I think I’ve figured out now how this mysterious press release came to pass.  As outraged by what happened in the station yesterday as the host and guests were, Milo offered to draft a press release for Martinez explaining events, and later sent it to him (and Sue Lester.)  Apparently Milo DID NOT INTEND for this to be presented as a press release from KOCI, but the draft of a press release from Martinez.  But Sue immediately put it on Facebook as a KOCI press release, putting poor Milo in a very awkward spot.

Still, the story detailed in the press release comports with everything I’ve heard with witnesses there: pressure from members of the CM Chamber of Commerce and Council, and worry over the FBI and license loss, led to the termination of the show.

Lobdell jumps in, and KOCI devises yet a THIRD story!

Remember, in Pulp Fiction, the Harvey Keitel character named The Wolf, who gets called in to fix ANY difficult situation and does a real smooth job of it?  Well, Costa Mesa’s Information Minister Bill Lobdell is Goat Hill’s version of the Wolf, but I really question his skill in this particular situation.

Brought in, as far as I can tell, to help KOCI management get its story straight and disentangle all Costa Mesa bigwigs from the imbroglio – in itself a suspicious development – Lobdell counterintuitively now has them telling a completely different story from what they told the Register 24 hours earlier.

Yesterday KOCI’s story was that they’d cancelled the program because they wanted to avoid “controversy,” and any association with a bad guy like Bob Martinez who’d had his dispensary shut down.  TODAY their story is this:  Martinez had led them to believe he didn’t have the $2000 that it costs to put on this show each month, so they went ahead and cancelled it.  (Unbeknownst to him.)

In point of fact, Martinez showed up at the usual time, with his check, ready to do his show, which was within minutes of airing when they yanked him off for whatever their real reason was.  But if this thing about the money confusion was true, why didn’t they mention anything about that to the Register, or (now) the Daily Pilot?  Something stinks here, when people make up too many stories.

And why is Information Minister Lobdell involved anyway?  There’s something going on here that we haven’t figured out yet, and maybe the readers can help!  Consider the close chronology:  “Cannabis Community” is broadcast live from Mayor Monahan’s pub, and the Mayor gives a ringing endorsement to the industry.  Days later, Feds raid dispensaries at machine-gun point and send threatening letters to dozens of others.  The next episode of “Cannabis Community” is yanked off the air at the last moment, for reasons that don’t add up, before Martinez and his guests can have a chance to talk on air about these other developments.

Add to all that, the hard-up Mayor’s sudden discovery of nearly 300 grand to buy out his restaurant partners in December – oh, we haven’t mentioned that yet, have we?

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* Update 3, Monday morning, 10AM:

I’ve just received a curious e-mail from someone at KOCI, who identifies himself only by first name, and emphasizes that he’s “been asked by KOCI management not to answer questions about the conversation” at the station regarding the controversy.  He tells us that:

  • That press release was actually written by Martinez, with this anonymous person’s input – so it is NOT an official KOCI press release.  [Martinez denies writing it.] AND ON THE OTHER HAND:
  • He can “verify that I personally heard Barry Jorgensen make the claims that appear” in the press release – so even if the press release is not official it is factual.  And he provides the names of other witnesses who were there.

So … why all the controversy and secrecy?  Why is this guy being warned not to talk about it?  What’s being protected – the reputations of meddling, censoring, Costa Mesa officials, or the reputation of cowardly caving KOCI?

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Update 2 – Back Story:

Robert Martinez, an Army veteran, medic and nurse in Operation Desert Shield, ran one of Costa Mesa’s original and most respected dispensaries, the Newport Mesa Patients’ Association. A stickler for the rules, he followed them to the tee, and was the first to be shut down in the rash of Federal raids. He takes pride in the fact that, since he followed all state laws and regulations, his twenty employees, who had been paying taxes and supporting the local economy, are now receiving unemployment benefits.

For the last year – until yesterday, Sunday Feb. 5 – he had also run the popular weekly KOCI program “Cannabis Community.” The program focused on the benefits of medical cannabis, featuring discussions with patients, lawyers, members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and Judge Jim Gray. The show presented data, facts. One recent episode was broadcast from Skosh Monahan’s, the Irish pub belonging to Costa Mesa Mayor Gary “Skosh” Monahan, an avid supporter of medical marijuana.

Wait a second – did we hear that right? Yes. The haggard, diminutive leprechaun Mayor has been one of medical marijuana’s greatest supporters (along with Costa Mesa’s deranged Congressman and Costa Mesa resident Dana Rohrabacher.) As the Pot Stirrer reported recently, Mayor Monahan not only hosted the “pro-cannabis radio program at his gin mill,” he

…openly speaks out in favor of legalizing [dispensaries] in our city. It’s no wonder when at least one of those operators recently raided has expressed a loss of faith in humanity. I suppose one could understand his view, considering that he’s been snuggled up to local politicians for a couple years and feeding their election campaigns with contributions… In fact, one dispensary located at the building [previously mentioned] posted a notice on its door indicating that folks who attended the event at Monahan’s bar could bring a receipt and receive a “free house joint”, and that if you contribute $20.00 or more to Monahan’s re-election campaign the dispensary will give you a $20.00 credit.

Yet, we hear that it is the Republican Costa Mesa Council, of which Monahan is the titular head, that has been inviting the Feds in to raid these businesses and cleanse the town of them. What is going on here? This is worth further looking in to! Is this a case of:

  • A rift, on the Costa Mesa right, between prohibitionists and libertarians?
  • Or just typical politicians saying one thing and doing another?

I’m going to get to the bottom of this!

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Update 1, Late Sunday afternoon:

The Register’s version of this story is out now (we had the scoop, natch.) And KOCI management, in the person of General Manager Brent Kahlen, is spinning like a top. Their new story is that there has been no pressure from politicians or the Feds. Their new story is that they made their own decision themselves because the topic of the show, medical marijuana, is “controversial” – what a crock! So, according to management, a ” non-profit, community radio station” should “remain neutral” on controversial topics NOT by presenting both sides, but by AVOIDING THOSE TOPICS ENTIRELY. That is just to barf at.

Flailing, Kahlen also tries blaming the decision on the show’s host, Army vet and medic Robert Martinez, and the fact that his Newport Mesa Patients’ Association was recently shut down by the Feds:

“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 [in an e-mail to the Reg.]

Talk about weak-kneed! But I have two witnesses – host Martinez and guest Lester – who clearly heard all of the above – that the decision was due to pressure from Costa Mesa City Council and Chamber of Commerce, fear of an FBI investigation, and fear of losing the station’s license this year. Not only that – the press release below is a real press release from the station, which they are now disowning, but we have a copy with their data and time stamp on it.

Why is KOCI management changing its story now? Who or what is KOCI management afraid of?

  • Are they afraid of the politicians and Feds named above?
  • Or are they afraid of the public knowing that they caved to that sort of pressure?

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Original post.

Just in from KOCI* this afternoon:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Costa Mesa, February 5, 2012 — The popular “Cannabis Community” radio show, hosted by Robert Martinez, on KOCI LP-FM, Newport Beach, was canceled without warning by station manager Brent Kahlen at the request of the FBI.

The FBI has been investigating the radio station because of the medical marijuana radio show and at the end of this week told the community radio station to remove the show from the air, according to Barry Jorgensen, attorney for the radio station. Jorgensen claimed that the federal involvement was the result of requests from the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the Costa Mesa city council.

Martinez was not informed of the decision until seven minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. Sunday start of his radio show.

Jorgensen initially claimed that the show could continue at an early morning time slot, but without any on-air or web site publicity, but Kahlen completely canceled the show.

Martinez was president of the recently closed Newport Mesa Patients Association, Costa Mesa, which was shut down along with all other Costa Mesa medical marijuana dispensaries late January 2012 in response to a letter from the U. S Attorney’s Office.

Former dispensary operator and Costa Mesa Council candidate Sue Lester, who was waiting in the studio to appear as a guest on the program, overheard KOCI staff mention that “a member of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce threatened that IF the show be allowed to air Federal Government intervention would prevent the public station from renewing their license with the FCC which is up for renewal this year.”

More to come shortly…


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.