A western Kentucky Democrat has pre-filed a bill for the 2018 legislative session reducing the criminal penalty for first degree drug possession, or personal possession, 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.”
Watkins said if the bill passes, about 3,500 people in jail would be released. He says that could save the state nearly 77-million dollars.
Watkins said that money could then be used to help with the state’s ailing pension system and for funding much needed treatment programs.