Buttressed and breached: The exurban fortress, cannabis activism, and the drug war’s shifting political geography
Environmental and Planning D: Society and Space
Polson, M.
Photograph of police officer in front of cannabis plants in the outdoors
As questions of cannabis legalization arise, exurbs struggle to differentiate the rural and urban.

Born from ideals of rural security, exurbs have become an influential capital investment with a conservative political character. Beyond U.S. cities and suburbs, exurban development expanded into rural areas via the spatial and racial dynamics of the post-1980s drug war. In this ethnographic study of the “exurban fortress” in Calaveras County, California, an anti-drug constituency of property owners (predominantly older and white) solidified concepts of urban danger and rural security through local politics and governance. During the period of 1992-2010, cannabis prohibition politically stabilized rural economies across California. In Calaveras, medical cannabis activists, however, disrupted this stability in ways that mirrored national trends around drugs, criminalization, enforcement and politics. This account of cannabis in Calaveras County calls attention to the boundaries of rural politics as increasingly consequential to the US political economy.