ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota panel has approved a plan to overhaul the state's drug sentencing guidelines.

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission voted 7-3 Wednesday to approve the plan, which has been in the making for years.

The proposals would ease penalties for drug possession and dealing. Under the plan, recommended prison sentences for first-time offenders convicted of first-degree drug possession would be reduced from seven to four years. Sentences for first-degree drug sale would be reduced from seven to five years.

Supporters of the idea say Minnesota's drug laws have been too severe and have worsened racial disparities in the prison system.

The Star Tribune ( ) reports unless the Legislature intervenes, the changes will take effect in August.

Analysts say the changes could save 523 prison beds in Minnesota by 2028.