Rapper and country music star, Jelly Roll, delivered a powerful testimony before U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, shedding light on the devastating impact of fentanyl on forgotten Americans. Advocating for victims of the heroin and fentanyl epidemics, Jelly Roll, whose real name is Jason DeFord, shared his personal experiences, having openly spoken about his past conviction for drug dealing.
During his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Jelly Roll emphasized the ever-present danger by highlighting that within the five minutes he would speak, someone in the United States would die from a drug overdose, with a 72% chance of it being related to fentanyl. As a musician, he made it clear that he held no political alliance, claiming to be neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Due to his past, Jelly Roll’s right to vote had been restricted, making him an unbiased voice in discussing the issue. He believed that his unique position made him the ideal person to advocate against fentanyl, as it transcends partisanship and ideology.
Jelly Roll informed lawmakers that approximately 190 people die from an overdose every day in the U.S., which is equivalent to a full capacity “737 plane.” Expressing his frustration, he questioned the discrepancy in national media attention between a plane crash and overdoses, given that drug addicts are often subjected to bullying and shame. He believed that instead of shaming them, America should endeavor to understand the root cause of the problem.
Having witnessed the victims of the national fentanyl crisis at his concerts, Jelly Roll attested to being personally affected by addiction, referring to it as a disease. Sharing his emotional experience, he revealed that he had attended numerous funerals of loved ones who fell victim to addiction, including those who were not initially drug addicts but spiraled out of control due to various circumstances.
As a former drug dealer, Jelly Roll clarified that he was not defending the use of illegal drugs but rather aimed to be part of the solution after having been part of the problem. He stressed that drug dealing is not a victimless crime, pointing out that the mother of his 15-year-old daughter is a drug addict. This personal connection highlighted the everyday fears he and his wife faced, wondering whether they would soon have to tell their daughter that her mother had become another statistic.
Jelly Roll’s testimony aligned with recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which reported a rise in drug overdose deaths from 2019 to 2021. In 2021 alone, there were more than 106,000 drug overdose deaths, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl being a significant contributor. The agency recorded 70,601 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2021.
With a heartfelt plea, Jelly Roll called on Congress to prioritize the well-being of forgotten Americans and be proactive in addressing the fentanyl crisis, urging them to be proactive rather than reactive in their approach. By sharing his personal experiences, he hoped to draw attention to the gravity of the situation and inspire meaningful change.