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Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, the standup/movie/music icon, has added entrepreneur to his list of achievements. But the businessman is staying in character with the Tommy Chong we have all grown to know and love. It’s all about weed. His new business venture in Colorado is manufacturing two products for distribution: Chong Star, a form of weed high in CBD and THC named after Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) in which Chong was a contestant last season, and “Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipes” which instantly rid clothes and hair of smoky smells from cigars, cigarettes and cannabis. Chong tells me that Len Goodman, a judge on DWTS and a heavy cigar smoker, swears by the swipes product.

According to Chong, growing, distributing, and selling marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is legal in Colorado as long as the product stays within the state borders. The product is also subject to sales tax which is levied at the dispensary level. Chong believes that levying a sales tax is tax overload on citizens. He says, “We are already taxed to death on everything.”

However, these activities are still illegal at the federal level. Even so, Chong does not fear reprisal from the Feds. He feels that pending court cases on the side of legalizing marijuana and, finally, recognition of its medicinal qualities will soon result in federal legalization of the drug.

Chong credits his remission from prostate cancer to the use of a hemp product under the direction of his naturopath in Canada. He strongly believes in its medicinal qualities. You certainly don’t have the litany of “side effects include…” when it comes to marijuana. “After all,” Chong adds, “The worst thing that can happen if you smoke too much marijuana is that you will regurgitate. This demonstrates that the body is equipped to handle it. When it comes to marijuana, the medical benefits far outweigh these issues.”

Chong adds that government resistance to legalization can also be attributed to their inability to regulate. He states, “You cannot regulate marijuana in the same way you can regulate alcohol because there is no one manufacturing point. It’s a cottage industry.”

The trend toward legalization is also evident with the leniency the IRS has demonstrated the last few years towards the marijuana industry. Previously, business owners were required to report their illegal income without the benefit of taking deductions against it. Things have changed. Beginning in 2011, deductions for cost of goods sold, which are the costs involved in production are allowed on tax returns. Most marijuana farmers are using the “full absorption costing rules” and “unified capitalization rules” to include administrative, overhead and direct costs normally not associated with cost of goods sold. In other words, they are basically writing off every expense. And the IRS is allowing it.

Chong is excited about his new enterprise. Although, he says, “Owning a small business is like doing time in jail. You are dedicated to that business. You don’t have a life. It absorbs all of your time. When I was in jail I had more time to myself than I had on the outside.”

Chong was jailed in 2003 for 9 months for selling marijuana paraphernalia.

Chong is joined by his son Paris and John Paul Cohen, a former Sanwa Bank executive, in his new business. “These guys handle the business end of things. I am not a businessman; I am an artist,” Chong states. It’s his wife Shelby, who he says has the business brains in the family. She has an accounting background. He always heeds her advice.

Chong says the best business advice he’s ever received is to prepay his taxes. “If you pay too much, you get a refund. And you’re not on the red flag list. Because you paid in advance, they’ll likely leave you alone.”

The best advice he has to offer to other entrepreneurs, however, is what he tells his son, “Research, research, research. You need to know habits and trends. There’s no excuse to not know everything you need to know. The knowledge is at your fingertips.”

Tonight will be our first date. Luke is taking me to dinner. Just two more hours before I get to see him! I feel a tingle as I move the queen of hearts below the king of spades. I’m like a teenage girl with the rush and crush of it all. You’d never know I was a 34 year old professional woman. I feel like snapping my gum and calling my girlfriends flat out on my stomach on the bed with legs raised behind me kicking off shoes and yammering into the phone, “and he’s all, and I’m like, and he’s like…” Christ. But I can’t help the delicious burst of joy that’s running from my tummy into my chest.

My life is about to change. I smile and move the four of clubs across to the five of hearts. Yes, my life is about to change. I can just feel it. A new man. A new adventure.

I look up. Andie is shouting, “You can’t go in there! You can’t go in there without an appointment!” And from the hallway, the thundering of heavy footsteps advancing across the oak plank floor. “Wait!”

Then a man rushing through my open office door. His handsome face is puffy, red and vaguely familiar. It blurs as he speeds to the front of my desk. He upends a black satchel and my eyes grow large as they move from his face down to stacks of bound hundred dollar bills tumbling onto the desktop, off the desk onto the floor. Mounds and mounds of them. I can’t even guess how much.

“Pay the IRS for me.” The words tumble just as rapidly from his mouth as the packets tumble onto the desktop. A waft of stagnant scotch hits my nose. Is he drunk?

I finally recognize the new client with the horrendous tax problem who paid me a small advance a couple of months ago, signed the IRS’ Power of Attorney form, but never returned with the paperwork I needed in order to proceed. “Simon? What’s going on?” He is so intent on his task that he doesn’t answer. “Simon?” I prompt again this time a little more insistently.

Simon scoops the last banded pack from the satchel, finally looks at me and says, “I trust you Kim. Pay the IRS for me. I’ll be in touch.”

By then Andie is in the doorway but rears back quickly when he barrels back through it. We watch him leave then stare at each other slack jawed for a beat. Then I’m up and running after him. “Simon! Wait!” He’s gone through the front door. I whip the door open, step out to the landing, and pause. I look to the right, nothing. I look to the left and see him running down the sidewalk. Shielding the late afternoon sun from my eyes with one hand, I call out to him again, “Wait, Simon. You have to come back!”

A squeal of brakes causes me to look across the street. A bronze vintage Oldsmobile, something out of the 1960’s, pulls to a stop. A woman in big round sunglasses, sun hat, and gloved hands, lowers the window, brings up a revolver and shoots Simon. I watch as he crumbles to the ground and the satchel flies out of his hands.

The car door swings open and the woman starts to get out but looks over at me as I scream. She turns toward me, raises the gun and before I can react, she fires. I hear a hiss and smell gunpowder as the bullet whizzes by my ear and lodges into the door frame behind me. Throwing myself to the ground, I crawl back inside and slam the door with my foot. I hear the crack of one more bullet then hear the sound of peeling rubber.

I stay on the floor. Tears erupt from my eyes as I hyperventilate. Alarmed, Andie is leaning over me. “What happened? What’s going on?” Her voice is anxious.

I put my hand over my heart and breathe deeply, exhaling loudly, trying to slow my breathing. Finally, I can speak. “Call the police, Andie. Call the police. And get an ambulance. She shot Simon.”

“What? Who? Who shot Simon? What?”

I glower at her. “Andie. Just. Call. Now.”

The door bursts open. I scream and pull myself into a fetal position, covering my face with my hands. Andie jumps back. After a terrifying moment, I hear her say, “Damn! I was just about to call you.”

Slowly, I pull my hands down from my face to see a police officer, hand poised over his weapon. It’s Mac, Officer McCarthy, who interviewed me several months ago when Dominic Rodriguez disappeared. Outside I hear another officer speaking into a two-way, asking for an ambulance.

I sit up feeling a tad embarrassed. Andie lowers a hand to help me up. I brush off my skirt. Mac sighs and drops his hand to his side. “It’s Kim, right? Kim Stillwell?” I nod as he pulls a small notebook from a chest pocket. “Well, you want to tell me what happened this time?”

Harley the Dawg says: You may be able to write off a service animal, security dog (they scare me), and herding farm dog. Talk to your tax pro to see if you qualifyPicture of a dog  in a party hat

Join Bonnie Lee, E.A., author of Taxpertise, for tax tips for foodies at the epicurean connection.

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Dear Bonnie or Harley the Dawg,

When will the IRS send out the rebate checks and how do I find out how much I will get?

Cindy

Dear Harley the Dawg,

I just got a divorce and my ex-husband is giving me $50,000 from a CD we had together. Do I have to pay taxes on that? If I do, I’m gonna be hella mad.

Judy

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