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Gold Hill trouble crops up

Three legal medical marijuana plants are drawing the attention of local teenagers and curious drivers. / Roy Musitelli — — — — Medicinal marijuana plants draw vandals, sightseers

GOLD HILL ' A medicinal marijuana patch has turned into something of a local tourist attraction ' and a nightmare for the homeowners trying to guard their crop.

Local teenagers and even some adults have been trying to scale the fence, leaving Darrell and Marie Kiger at their wits' end as they try to protect their three 8-foot plants.

Neighbors said that last year, as many as five cars at a time would approach the plants. This year, the Kigers built an enclosure to protect and disguise the crop, which is still clearly visible from the street.

Despite guard dogs and a chain-link fence around the Kigers' yard as deterrents to trespassers, the police have been called out on three separate occasions this year to search for intruders.

The Kigers say teenagers have cut or scaled their fence and stabbed their guard dog in almost daily attempts to steal the plants.

On Wednesday, Police Chief Rod Countryman came out again ' but this time to warn the Kigers that they were the ones breaking the law.

Countryman told them they couldn't discharge a firearm within city limits, even if it was just a warning shot to scare off four teenagers prowling near the fence at around 4 a.m. Wednesday.

He said the Kigers didn't seem to know that they couldn't fire the weapon. We had a discussion about that and they said they're not going to do that again, he said.

According to Countryman, the Kigers are the only residents within city limits who have the necessary permits that allow them to grow a maximum of seven plants for medicinal purposes. Growing medicinal marijuana became legal under a measure passed by Oregon voters in November 1998.

Countryman said it is a difficult situation for the Kigers, whose pot patch is in front of a steep hill that provides a good vantage point. Marijuana stalks also can be clearly seen from the roadway, protruding from the enclosure made of glass and latticework.

Though the Kigers are not allowed to discharge a weapon, Countryman did say that they have a right to protect themselves ' within reason.

He couldn't say whether using a gun against an intruder would justify the use of deadly force. That's up to a judge and a jury, he said.

The Kigers say they have every right to protect their property, while insisting they didn't mean any bodily harm.

No shots were fired at any kids, said Marie Kiger, who didn't rule out that a shot might have been fired into the ground when some local teenagers tried to trespass.

I don't know why kids can't go about their own business, she said. We've had kids over our fence, our dogs stabbed and our fence cut.

Her husband, who suffers from a degenerative bone disease and said he can't sleep at night for fear of intruders, said, I've got a right to defend myself.

A neighbor, city councilman Mike Hicks, said, Darrell has every right to grow this.

He said he gets along with his neighbor and believes it is sometimes appropriate to use a weapon in town because cougars and other wild animals come down from the hills.

But he didn't think it would be appropriate against teenagers who might be prowling the hillsides.

Hicks said he hadn't personally heard the Kigers firing off any shots, but added that he works a night shift.

He did say the Kigers have gone to great lengths to hide the crop, which attracted considerable attention last year after their road was paved.

We could have charged admission and paid for the asphalt, he said.

Three legal medical marijuana plants are drawing the attention of local teenagers and curious drivers. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune images