"Gary Ganja"
  • "Gary Ganja"
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La Jolla publicity maven Marc Paskin has remade himself into the pied piper of pot on the public airwaves and he says he will eventually do the same in San Diego.

Published reports have said Paskin amassed a $100 million real estate empire, starting with a duplex he bought while in college. The Madison, Wisconsin-born Paskin moved to Solana Beach in the ’80s, then La Jolla 15 years ago.

Local media jumped on Paskin’s activities when he appeared on a 2011 episode of ABC-TV’s Secret Millionaire, where he gave away $125,000 to Detroit charities. He got more attention when he bought a billboard in Barrio Logan looking for a Latina girlfriend in 2012.

While Paskin, 65, does not personally proclaim the benefits of marijuana, he saw a business opportunity when a handful of states made marijuana legal for recreational consumption. He rented an apartment in Denver, the biggest market he could find in a legalized state, and realized his dream to own a radio station.

Two weeks ago Paskin launched America’s first FM radio station celebrating the “420 lifestyle” with “Smokin’ 94.1,” Denver’s cannabis-centric classic rock station. He says he spent $875,000 to buy an underperforming AM/FM sports station outside of Denver and changed its call letters to KBUD.

Paskin says his 250-watt FM transmitter (one Denver station has 97,000 watts) covers 90 percent of Denver. He rented office space, bought new studio equipment, and hired four DJs: Billy Blunt, Mary Jane, and Stoney Reynolds. Paskin does an afternoon shift as “Gary Ganja.”

Throughout the day, Van Halen, ZZ Top, and Bob Marley cuts are tied together by station IDs where a deep-voiced announcer identifies “The Mile High City’s Highest station” followed by short Cheech and Chong comedy bits and theme-friendly song snippets such as “Eight Miles High,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Smoke on the Water.”

“I will never tell you on the air to smoke pot,” says Paskin. “But I may tell a joke about it…. We repeat our 4:20 news at 5:20 because our listeners forget to listen at 4:20.”

60 Minutes reported on Sunday (June 7) that the recreational marijuana industry generated $43 million in tax revenue for Colorado in nine months. In spite of the booming business, Paskin says that other Denver stations won’t touch weed ads.

“Other stations are afraid of alienating their other advertisers, like banks and fast-food chains.”

Although Paskin says he eventually will sell ads to pot shops and anyone else, he says he doesn’t

want to air any ads during the first month of operation, while he works out the kinks.

Paskin says he was initially thinking about playing alternative rock on his station but that the Colorado MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division) has rules about broadcast pot ads.

“It’s okay to air ads for marijuana,” he says, “but if over 30 percent of our listeners were under 21, that may be a problem….

“It’s like underground, hippie radio from the ’60s and ‘70s. I want to bring back that feeling of radio in the old days when you had lots of listener involvement and off-the-cuff, free-form DJs telling corny jokes and playing whatever songs they wanted to play…. I want to put localization back in radio.”

Paskin claims he had serious discussions about buying an FM station in San Diego. His offering of “$5 to $6 million” was not near what the local owners wanted, he says. But if his Denver experiment works, he expects to launch “Smokin’” stations in San Diego and in other California cities.

“Everyone expects Nevada and California to legalize recreational marijuana next year.”

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