The unpublished decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel came in response to a lawsuit filed by the dispensaries and one patient.
Parallel lawsuits have also been filed in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs filed the appeal in the appellate court, arguing that federal raids violated the constitutional rights of dispensaries and patients.
The court cited a prior 2007 ruling in rejecting the argument.
One of the attorneys representing the dispensary interests is cited in published reports as saying a petition will be filed soon, asking for the appeal to be heard by a full 11-judge panel at the 9th Circuit.
The battleground over medical marijuana and states’ rights versus federal law has been a source of bitter debate since 1996, when 56 percent of California’s voters gave the thumbs-up to the Compassionate Use Act.
Despite approval by state voters, the federal government maintains that marijuana remains illegal under U.S. law. Today, voters in roughly half of the nation’s states have now given the nod to the sale and use of medical marijuana.
To add fuel to the bitter debate, a majority of voters in Colorado and Washington have also gone to the ballot box to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Among the dispensaries pursuing the lawsuit are Cloud 9 Cooperative in Point Loma and Light the Way in the Midway District, which were both forced to close their doors after the U.S. Attorney’s Office dispatched letters to dispensaries in San Diego County — as well as to their landlords — ordering the businesses to shut down or face forfeiture and criminal prosecution.