Kansas lawmakers consider bills to cut drug crime penalties

Drugs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas lawmakers are considering two bills to reduce penalties for minor drug crimes.

Kansas News Service reports that supporters of the lighter sentences say the bills would create more reasonable drug laws and reduce the state’s prison population.

Opponents told a Kansas House committee this week that the legislation would go too far and fail to recognize that all drug crimes feed an often-violent illegal drug trade.

One bill would reduce prison and probation sentences for the lowest-tier of drug crimes, such as possession or intent to distribute a small amount.

A second bill would recommend probation rather than prison for people convicted of a wider array of minor drug crimes. Some would also receive state-funded drug abuse treatment.

The two bills are among the recommendations made by the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, a group of legislators, judges, attorneys, community members and others who met regularly in 2019 and 2020 to discuss changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

Scott Schultz, executive director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, said studies show long prison sentences are not a deterrent to drug crimes and shorter sentences don’t lead to a rise in drug crimes.