Changes considered in drug sentencing guidelines include the following:

Lower recommended prison sentences for first-degree drug sales to 5-10 years, from 7-13 years.

Reduce the severity levels assigned to first-degree drug possession and second-degree drug crimes.

Allow flexible sentencing in all cases, including aggravated sentences for "kingpin" drug distributors, and more lenient sentences for chemically dependent defendants who need treatment.

Backers say changes will improve predictability in Minnesota drug sentencing and result in a long-term reduction of several hundred prison beds. The changes also will enable prosecutors to go after more serious drug dealers, while opponents say it could allow dangerous drug dealers to elude prison time.

If the amendments are adopted Dec. 30, the changes would take effect Aug. 1, unless the Legislature intervenes.