While establishing a framework for colonial governance in the Philippines, American policymakers had to confront the issue of opium smoking, which was especially popular among the Philippine Chinese community. In 1903, the Philippine Commission proposed a return to the Spanish-era policy of controlling the opium trade through tax farming, igniting outrage among American Protestant missionaries in the Philippines and their supporters in the United States. Their actions revived a faltering global anti-opium movement, leading to a series of international agreements and domestic restrictions on opium and other drugs. Focusing mostly on American policy in the Philippines, this paper also examines the international ramifications of a changing drug control regime. It seeks to incorporate the debate over opium policy into broader narratives of imperial ideology, international cooperation, and local responses to colonial rule, demonstrating how a variety of actors shaped the new drug-control regimes both in the Philippines and internationally.
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