Ex-drug dealer Jelly Roll needs more than a favor. He needs Congress to pass an anti-fentanyl bill

Take it from Jelly Roll, the former drug dealer turned country music star: “Fentanyl is gonna make the Sackler family look like saints.”

The “Son of a Sinner” and “Need a Favor” singer appeared before Congress on Thursday and delivered an impassioned five-minute statement urging lawmakers to pass an anti-fentanyl trafficking bill. Jelly Roll — real name Jason DeFord — addressed the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, channeling his own experience with addiction and reciting chilling statistics about the toll fentanyl has taken on American lives.

“In these five minutes I’ll be speaking … somebody in the United States will die of a drug overdose,” he began, “and it is almost a 72% chance that during those five minutes, it will be fentanyl-related.”

Jelly Roll, who said he does not have any political affiliation, told his congressional audience — including U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — that the country needs to take more steps to care for people struggling with addiction and prevent more fatal overdoses.

“America has been known to bully and shame drug addicts,” he said, “instead of dealing and trying to understand what the actual root of the problem is with them.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health reported in December that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, caused more than 60% of all accidental drug or alcohol overdoses in 2022 and continues to disproportionately kill Black Angelenos.

Jelly Roll advocated Thursday for the passage of the FEND Off Fentanyl Act. The bill, introduced by Scott, seeks to respond to international fentanyl trafficking by imposing sanctions and anti-money-laundering measures “in an attempt to target China and Mexico’s illicit fentanyl supply chain,” ABC News reported.

The 39-year-old musician, who faced jail time in his early adulthood for robbery and drug-related charges, told Congress that he was part of the problem but now is committed to being “part of the solution” in the fight against fentanyl.

The Grammy nominee also said in his testimony that there is a personal toll behind the spread of fentanyl. Sober himself, Jelly Roll revealed that the mother of his 15-year-old daughter struggles with drug addiction.

“Every day I get to look in the eyes of a victim — in my household — of the effects of drugs,” he said. “Every single day I have to wonder, me and my wife, if today will be the day that I have to tell my daughter her mother became a part of the national statistic.”

Citing the crack cocaine and opioid crises, Jelly Roll warned Congress that “history repeats itself” and urged both parties’ politicians to take a proactive approach by passing the bill.

“I truly believe in my heart that this bill will stop the supply and can help stop the supply of fentanyl,” he said. “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.”

Times staff writer Grace Toohey contributed to this report.

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