Hopes were quite high for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' consideration of a case that would have tested the federal legality of medical marijuana in the Western United states, including California.

Unfortunately, the court dashed the hopes of medical cannabis supporters when it announced yesterday that it would not hear oral arguments in the case.

What does that mean?

It's bad news for those who wanted the court to affirm medical pot's legality, says plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Kumin.

A three-judge panel of the court was scheduled to hear oral arguments Monday. The case, Sacramento Nonprofit Collective et al v. Eric Holder et. al, challenges federal enforcement against dispensaries in the greater L.A., Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego areas.

See also: Marijuana Dispensary Crackdown by Feds in Echo Park, Westlake, Long Beach.

Plaintiffs essentially want the relatively liberal court to say medical weed is okay despite being a federally prohibited, “Schedule I” drug. According to a statement from the attorney:

Their suit aims to allow them to lawfully possess and use cannabis to treat their medical conditions with a doctor's recommendation without interference by the federal government.

Oral arguments would have meant that the justices wanted to explore plaintiffs' side of things, Kumin told us. But the cancellation could show that they've already decided, he said:

Credit: Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

Credit: Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

We take this as a pretty negative sign. If they're not asking for oral arguments it means they've already made up their minds is my guess. They're probably near or nearly done with the decision and they're trying to figure out how to word it.

Kumin said he expects a decision to be handed down within several weeks.

However, there's still hope. Plaintiffs can — and probably will — ask the full Ninth Circuit, or at least about half of it, to consider the case.

And the panel's decision, no matter how it goes, will create headlines. Kumin:

We view this as one of many fronts in the war on drugs in trying to get that wall of prohibition taken down. Even a loss gets people buzzing.

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