Gov. Rowland said he would re-evaluate the state’s drug laws if he wins his third term next month, including offering softer sentences for youthful offenders arrested with small amounts of drugs.

Rowland also said he would revive the so-called drug courts that were set up in 1997 to lighten caseloads in Bridgeport, New London and New Haven.

The Republican governor made his remarks during an editorial board meeting with the Connecticut Post on Thursday.

“One of the things I need to work a little harder on this year is to — the overused word — decriminalize drug use,” Rowland said.

The issue hit home when his nephew received a 45-day sentence after a marijuana bust at the University of Connecticut a few years ago.

With widespread use of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy among young adults and college students, lawmakers must decide whether the mandatory punishment of current drug laws fits the crime of individual drug use.

He made his remarks in response to a question about raising the age that juvenile offenders are treated as adults in the state’s court system. Rowland said he favors looking into hiking the age to 18. Connecticut is one of only three states that treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.

The drug courts were axed during budget cuts last spring. Bill Curry, the Democratic candidate for governor, blamed Rowland for missing the chance to keep the drug courts in operation.

“Letting the drug courts go was a mistake by the governor,” Curry told the Post. “We had opportunities to take a different approach and we have let them pass by.”

He also said the governor is borrowing Curry’s anti-drug strategy and questions whether Rowland will continue to endorse those ideas after the Nov. 5 election.

–Associated Press