By Alli Rosenbloom, CNN
(CNN) — Jason DeFord, the rapper and country star known as “Jelly Roll,” testified during the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday where he lobbied for stronger legislation against the ongoing fentanyl crisis in the United States.
DeFord began his testimony during the committee’s “Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions” hearing by sharing various figures on the rising number of fentanyl- and drug overdose-related deaths in the country, and stated his bipartisan position as he fights for a cause that is personal to him.
“I’ve attended more funerals than I care to share with y’all, this committee. I could sit here and cry for days about the caskets I’ve carried of people I love dearly, deeply, in my soul,” he said.
CNN reported in October that new estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics project that more than 112,000 people died from a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in May 2023, an increase of more than 2,700 from the previous year.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in the vast majority of overdose deaths, according to the provisional data.
On Thursday, DeFord urged the Senate to pass the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, which is a “sanctions and anti-money laundering bill to help combat the country’s fentanyl crisis by targeting opioid traffickers devastating America’s communities,” according to a description of the bill on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s website.
“It is time for us to be proactive and not reactive,” he said, later adding, “I truly believe in my heart that this bill will stop the supply and can help stop the supply of fentanyl.”
In previous interviews, DeFord has spoken openly about his own history with drug-related crimes and the various incarcerations that they resulted in, saying during his testimony on Thursday that “I believed when I sold drugs, genuinely, that selling drugs was a victimless crime.”
Acknowledging the “paradox of my history as a drug dealer standing in front of this committee,” DeFord noted his awareness that he, at one point, “was a part of the problem.”
“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,” he said.
DeFord, who is now a two-time Grammy nominee and a CMA Award winner, went on to say, “I am here now standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution.”
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CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.