DENVER (CBS4)– It claims to be the first radio station of its kind in the United States and it is getting a lot of different listeners.
“We’re like 420 friendly, we play music for stoners, we have marijuana comedy, this summer we’re giving away trips to Amsterdam and Jamaica,” Gary Ganja said as he started a show in mid-June.
The radio station at Smokin’ 94.1, which includes DJs named Mary Jane, Ed Blaze, Stoney Reynolds and the owner Gary Ganja, started on June first. Its marijuana themed from what goes out over-the-air down to the décor inside the office space and, for now, it’s still commercial free.
“I had a lady call me the other day from Philadelphia, and somebody else called from LA, and they listen to the radio station from work. I said why do you listen to us and they said our radio stations are boring it seems like you guys are having a good time,” Gary says.
He says he spent nearly $1 million to buy an old sports-talk station, about $100,000 on new equipment and started playing classic rock, reggae and comedy acts. The station has seven employees with hopes to expand up to about a dozen. Smoking isn’t allowed while DJs are on-air.
“We bought the station to put the fun back in radio which is what we’re doing,” Gary says. “The individual, the mom and pop radio station doesn’t exist.
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“I didn’t buy the station to make a lot of money, if it makes a lot of money great but that’s not the goal.”
Gary Ganja’s real name is Marc Paskin, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in real estate and has spent the past few years giving away most of his money through philanthropic efforts in California and Hawaii. It has been a wide ranging effort from paying a full-year’s rent for a crime victim, to making a TV show in Hawaii helping the less fortunate, naming himself “Uncle Kokua.”
“The No. 1 thing on my bucket list was to buy an FM radio station and do something fun and unique,” Gary says. “This is my million dollar toy. It’s a toy. Some people who are successful if they make a ton of money, some people buy an airplane, some buy a yacht, I bought a radio station.”
So he’s given up retirement and is working five days a week hosting his afternoon drive time show. He was a DJ as a young adult and wanted to relive the experience, while emphasizing fun, and crazy antics that aren’t allowed at corporate stations.
“All of our listeners are not potheads. We get phone callers every day who say I don’t smoke marijuana but you guys are funny,” Gary says.
Gary says he has budgeted to go commercial-free for a few months, but the popularity is already driving the station toward the murky area where the marijuana industry and advertising collide, something not fully favored by the federal government and the Federal Communication Commission which oversees Radio licenses.
“Right now we’re not taking any advertising. We have people calling us every day, marijuana stores and other advertisers,” Gary says. “The first couple months all we want to do is play music. We’re the only radio station that plays 420 hits in a row with no commercials. It’s building up an audience for us.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.