Jelly Roll Urges Senate To Take Action Against The Fentanyl Crisis In America


Jelly Roll is using his tumultuous past to inspire future change. 

CMA New Artist of the Year Jelly Roll is making waves in the country music industry but hopes that his newfound influence can also make a positive impact in other arenas. The Tennessee native had a troublesome adolescence before finding music and turning his life around. In his younger years, Jelly Roll had many struggles with the criminal justice system and was in and out of jail for various charges, ranging from drug possession to aggravated robbery. 

Days after winning at the CMA Awards, Jelly Roll earns multiple nominations at the 2024 Grammy Awards
Christopher Polk / Variety / Getty Images

Jelly Roll was once a drug dealer and is now urging Congress to take a stand against Fentanyl. 

Rapper-turned-country star Jelly Roll made an appearance on Capitol Hill to speak to the United States Senate in a hearing on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs titled “Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions.” 

Jelly Roll, born Jason DeFord, was introduced as a “two-time Grammy nominee and CMT Awards-winner who sings about and advocates for those who are facing drug addiction [by speaking] with and for people struggling with addiction across the nation.”

Before diving into his five-minute prepared statement, Jelly Roll admitted that he was nervous, as it is an unusual platform for him. He is used to being backed by a band when he steps up to a microphone. Despite the nerves, he begins in a powerful way: 

“I think it’s important to note before I start, that in these five minutes I will be speaking, somebody in the United States will die of a drug overdose. And it is almost a 72% chance that during those five minutes, it will be fentanyl-related.” 

Jelly Roll calls out the stigma attached to drug addicts in America. 

Jelly Roll shares the heartbreaking statistic that approximately 190 people die of a drug overdose every day in the United States, comparing it to the number of people on board an average 737 jet airplane. He asserts that society would care a lot more if a plane crashed and killed 190 people every day but that “we don’t feel that way” about drug addicts. He continues: 

“America has been known to bully and shame drug addicts, instead of trying to understand what the actual root of the problem is… Statistics show that almost every person in this room has lost a friend, family member, or colleague to the disease known as addiction.” 

YouTube / CBS Sunday Morning

Jelly Roll recognizes the contradiction between his history and the stance he is now taking. 

As the session continues, the singer acknowledges his unique relationship to the issue at hand. 

“I am not here to defend the use of illegal drugs. I also recognize the unique paradox of my history as a drug dealer… I was a part of the problem. I am here now standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution.”

Jelly Roll shares that because of his criminal past, his right to vote has been restricted. He points out that he does not have any political affiliation and that neutrality makes him the “perfect person” to speak about the issue.

“Fentanyl transcends partisanship and ideology. This is a totally different problem” 

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Jelly Roll urges assembly members to be proactive and not reactive. 

“I truly believe that this bill can help stop the supply of fentanyl… If we don’t talk to the other side of Capitol Hill and stop the demand, we are going to be spinning our tires in the mud. Y’all are taking the first step but I encourage you to take it outside of this room. Take it to your colleagues and your constituents.” 

The bill he is referencing is the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, which would wield financial sanctions against drug traffickers to disrupt the flow of opioids coming in from China and Mexico. 

Jelly Roll shares that every time he performs, he witnesses people who have been impacted by the tragic effects of addiction, and who look to music to grapple with the trauma. He reminds the committee that those are the individuals for whom he is speaking, adding: 

“They crave reassurance that their elected officials actually care more about human life than they do about ideology and partisanship.” 

He concludes: 

“I stand here as a regular member of society. I am a stupid songwriter, y’all, but I have firsthand witnessed this in a way most people have not. I encourage y’all to not only pass this bill, but I encourage you to bring it up where it matters.” 

Bravo, Jelly Roll! Watch the full testimony below.

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