Country singer Jelly Roll pleads with the Senate to pass an anti-fentanyl bill after his previous life as a drug dealer.
The “Son Of A Sinner” singer, whose real name is Jason DeFord, gave an impassioned speech to Congress on Thursday.
He drew upon his personal battle with substance abuse and dealing drugs to motivate lawmakers to save American lives.
DeFord appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs where Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), attempted to sway fellow politicians to approve his bill, the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act.
Jelly Roll gave a very POWERFUL Testimony to Congress today:
"I've attended more funerals than I care to share with y'all. I was a part of the problem. I am here now standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution."
— Graham Allen (@GrahamAllen_1) January 12, 2024
“Congress needs to come together to stop the Mexican Cartels, Chinese chemical suppliers, and money laundering organizations from profiting off the production and trafficking of fentanyl – resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans,” Scott remarked powerfully.
“Put simply: we should all value the health, safety, and security of Americans,” he added.
DeFord admitted to being nervous to testifying before Congress, but went on to speak eloquently about the nation’s fentanyl crisis.
“It’s important to note before I start that, in these five minutes I’ll be speaking, somebody in the United States will die of a drug overdose,” he said in an opening statement.
“And it is almost a 72 percent chance that during those five minutes, it will be fentanyl-related.”
DeFord pointed out that he had no political affiliation to either party, and due to his previous drug convictions, has not been allowed to vote in U.S. elections.
Delivering testimony during a Senate hearing on the opioid crisis, singer Jelly Roll says fentanyl "is truly the biggest crisis" in America, calling it "devastating."
"I have seen drugs from an early age…nothing has held a candle to what's happening with fentanyl," he says. pic.twitter.com/DIuJMfEqDZ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 11, 2024
“I have never paid attention to a political race in my life,” he stated, noting that “ironically” that fact made him the ideal person to speak to the Senate about the drug.
“Fentanyl transcends partisanship and ideology,” the “Save Me” singer continued. “This is a totally different problem.”
He said that the drug takes the lives of enough people to fit on a 737 aircraft on a daily basis.
“Could you imagine the national media attention it would get if they were reporting that a plane was crashing every single day and killing 190 people?” He questioned.
The country crooner pointed out that the deaths often go without mention because the people dying are habitual drug users.
“Because America has been known to bully and shame drug addicts instead of dealing and trying to understand what the actual root of the problem is,” he shamed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2022 alone, approximately 110,000 individuals lost their lives due to drug overdoses.
“I’ve attended more funerals than I care to share with y’all,” DeFord told lawmakers.
“I could sit here and cry for days about the caskets I’ve carried of people I love dearly, deeply in my soul. Good people, not just drug addicts. Uncles, friends, cousins, normal people.”
He spoke about how easy it is for people who have gotten injured in car accidents to spiral into addiction to pain killers.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, six out of ten fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills may contain a lethal dose of fentanyl.
He admitted to being both a former drug user and pusher to lawmakers during the hearing.
“I was a part of the problem. I am here now, standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution,” DeFord went on. “I brought my community down. I hurt people.”
“I was the uneducated man in the kitchen playing chemist with drugs I knew absolutely nothing about, just like these drug dealers are doing right now when they’re mixing every drug on the market with fentanyl and they’re killing the people we love,” the country hitmaker explained.
He told Congress that he “truly believed” that dealing drugs was a “victimless crime,” at the time.
However, his 15-year-old daughter’s mother is currently a drug addict and now he gets to look “in the eyes of a victim in [his] household of the effects of drugs.”
DeFord was among the three witnesses who testified during the hearing.
Alongside him were Patrick Yoes, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Christopher J. Urben, a former DEA agent. All three advocated for the passage of the FEND Off Fentanyl Act.
Although the bill received unanimous approval from the Senate Banking Committee last June, it was blocked from inclusion in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
In his concluding remarks, Jelly Roll urged lawmakers to be proactive instead of reactive to the fentanyl epidemic.
“If we don’t talk to the other side of Capitol Hill and stop the demand, we’re gonna spend our time in the mud,” DeFord stated.
“Y’all are taking the first step, but I encourage you to take it outside of this room, and you take it to your colleagues and your constituents, and you give them the most that you can.”