At first glance, Melahat Rafiei might not be the person you would think of as a “traditional American.” But she is, in so many ways. She believes in family, community, nation. She believes in community involvement, education and hard work as the way to a good life. She believes that the best for our people means the best for everyone. Melahat believes in the value of a community where people look out for the least among them. She hasn’t always been the successful business woman and civic and political activist that she is today. Melahat, her younger sister and brother and her parents fled political persecution in Tehran when she was only five years old. Eventually, the family achieved their goal – they became immigrants to the United States where they found a welcome and the chance to succeed like anyone else. Melahat now never misses an opportunity to show her adopted and much-loved home that her family was a good investment. She is a firm believer in giving back and paying forward.
Melahat followed a largely traditional road through university, where she had a double major of biology and philosophy. She thought that perhaps her contribution could be in the field of bio-ethics. Then she heard former Vermont Governor Howard Dean give a speech about change and America’s future. She realized then that the political world offered almost unlimited opportunities to serve the community. From laying the groundwork for the rise Democratic Party in Orange County, CA, Melahat began identifying other avenues to serve – a seat on the Board of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties, advising the National Iranian-American Council, consulting with a wide range of community groups. Among other endeavors, she serves as the first Iranian-American member of the Democratic National Committee. And she has also to found and head a successful business of her own, Progessive Solutions Consulting. Melahat has also recently added a division to the company, to focus on public advocacy.
One the primary reasons for taking on more public advocacy, is that Melahat has become a key player in the rapidly growing debate and implementation of legalized cannabis. Having discovered its medical value in her own life, Melahat did what she does best – she set out to learn everything there was to know about cannabis and its future uses, and then looked at how she could best make a positive contribution.
She has recently brought her ahead of the curve knowledge to a broader audience, having been named to the Los Angeles County Advisory Working Group on Cannabis Regulation. Her face and her voice are familiar as a strong, informed advocate, particularly regarding legal medical cannabis, and for progressives on television and radio, locally, nationally and Internationally.