Bill Would Reduce Criminal Penalty For Drug Possession
A western Kentucky Democrat has pre-filed a bill for the 2018 legislative session to reduce the criminal penalty for drug possession. The legislation would lower the offense for first-degree possession, or personal possession, of a controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Representative Gerald Watkins of Paducah hopes the bill will pass in the next legislative session, especially because he’s not running for re-election. The legislation would require those found guilty of drug possession to complete a treatment program and community service. Watkins said now is a good time to propose this bill because the public’s attitude toward drug crimes is changing.
“People are finally realizing okay yeah, we’re not going to solve our problem by sending all these people to prison. They do need some treatment they do need some help,” he said.
Watkins said if the bill passes it will apply retroactively, meaning about 3,500 people convicted of drug possession would be eligible for early release. He said that could save the state nearly $77 million. Watkins said that money could then be used to help with the state’s ailing pension system and for funding much needed treatment programs. He said the bill would also help those with felony drug convictions get a job because their record would change to show a misdemeanor instead of a felony.