Jelly Roll found himself in front of a different audience on Thursday (Jan. 11), as the country star, born Jason DeFord, testified in front of the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee on the fentanyl crisis.
He spoke on behalf of the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, bipartisan legislation which would implement sanctions to reduce the flow of the drug into communities by enforcing penalties on the bank accounts of cartels and drug suppliers.
Jelly Roll arrived at Washington, D.C.’s Dirksen Senate Office Building with wife Bunnie XO for the hearing titled “Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions.”
“I’m guessing most of you didn’t have ‘Jelly Roll testifies at Senate Banking hearing’ on your 2024 bingo cards,” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in his opening comments. “But few speak – and sing – as eloquently, as openly, as, shall we say, viscerally about addiction as he does. There is a reason why Americans flock to his music and his concerts. He has a connection with people based on shared pain, shared challenges, shared hope.”
Jelly Roll, who served time in jail for selling drugs and whose songs, such as “She,” address the toll of addiction, spoke passionately about the devastating effects fentanyl has had nationally and in his community.
“I’ve attended more funerals than I care to share with you all on this committee. I could sit here and cry for days about the caskets I’ve carried of people I loved dearly, deeply in my soul, good people, not just drug addicts,” he said. “Uncles, friends, cousins, normal people, some people that just got in a car wreck and started taking a pain pill to manage it.”
Jelly Roll, noting that 190 people die daily in the U.S. from drug addiction, then got even more personal, bringing committee members into his home. “Now I have a 15-year old daughter whose mother is a drug addict,” he said. “Every day I get to look in the eyes of a victim in my household of the effects of drugs, every single day. And every single day I have to wonder if me and my wife, if today will be the day that I have to tell my daughter that her mother became a part of the national statistic.”
He also addressed his criminal past, adding that he didn’t believe he was hurting 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,” he said. “I believed when I sold drugs genuinely that selling drugs was a victimless crime. I truly believed that.”
He implored the committee to pass the legislation, but to go further and work on the issues that cause addition, not just the dealers, saying, “I truly believe in my heart that this bill, that this bill will stop the supply and can help stop the supply of fentanyl. But in part of being proactive, gentlemen and women and ladies, I have to be frank and tell you all that if we don’t talk to the other side of Capitol Hill and stop the demand, we are going to spin our tires in the mud.”
Also testifying were Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Christopher J. Urben, managing director, Nardello & Co, and assistant special agent in charge (retired), Special Operations Division, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Watch Jelly Roll’s testimony below:
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