Our glamorous host enquires, "Do you know what terpenes are?" pointing to four glass domes, each containing mysterious lumps of black rock, spotlit on a table. The room we are in is small and the walls lined with mirrors. Atop them, neon arches glow lilac, pink and purple - the reflections forming an intricate maze of arcades that feels like a cosmic chapel and an intergalactic shrine to precious meteorites. This is Wyllow- one of LA's boutique cannabis dispensaries aiming to elevate the humble herb to new heights!

I take a whiff of one of the domes when our hostess lifts it with a flourish. A rich, citrusy bouquet with piney undertones wafts forth, resonating lemon peel and woodland walks. My sense is that I’m at a fancy wine tasting, not a marijuana dispensary. One dome smells smoky, the other musky and earthy with clove.

She explains that terpenes, volatile hydrocarbons, are what gives plants and cannabis strains their peculiar aroma and effects. The rocks before us aren't ancient hash blocks like I previously thought, but actually scented lava stones. Smelling them has allowed me to start my journey into America's immense marijuana retail sector, whose revenues exceed $30 billion annually.

As a place that embraces peace, love and positive vibes, California had a nonchalant attitude to marijuana already. In 1996 it made history by being the first US state to legalise cannabis for medicinal use, and in 2016 this was followed up with another landmark ruling, permitting recreational consumption. In the years prior to these measures being passed, procuring weed for medical reasons was a far from pleasant experience. Licensed dispensaries resembled backstreet haunts, with reinforced security and double-guarded entries. Customers would have their ID and prescription screened by somebody behind heavily grilled glass before having their order weighed out from sealed containers placed on rundown counters.

High Road design studio, which specializes in cannabis dispensaries, says Megan Stone: “It always felt like you were just a few steps above your drug dealer’s basement. There are now dispensaries that look like jewellery stores, opticians, and cupcake bakeries, all moving away from that stoner mentality."

California is now the largest legal cannabis market globally, with $5.2bn (£4.3bn) in sales this year. The state's Emerald Triangle has become America's biggest cannabis-growing region, and its industry is among the most sophisticated in the world; specialist products, inventive stores and incredible LA dispensaries have all made a big impact. With fierce competition and modern customers demanding more, these spots have gone from run-down shacks to flamboyant boutiques - each one pushing the boundaries of what makes an Instagram-worthy design and unforgettable experience.

The Wyllow hostess offers me a seat on a green velvet banquette. “Are you more relaxed and sleepy or creative and alert?” I am speaking to a drug dealer but it feels more like a mindfulness session.

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Moments later, she returns from behind a curtain with a platter of products ranging from pre-rolled joints to cannabis-injected snacks and sweet treats, stored in jars that look like Belgian chocolates, perfume bottles, and fizzy candy. The shelves surrounding us boast lychee flavoured mochi gummies, pharmaceutical tincture containers, and strips that can be dissolved on the tongue. An audio of ASMR can be heard in the background: a composition of paper rolls being unfurled, breaths of smoky air expelled, and taps against an ashtray.

The 300 sq ft Wyllow store, designed by Singaporean firm Space Objekt, was brought to life last year by Camille Roistacher between Beverley Hills and Culver City. “We wanted our space to be a welcoming environment for those who are new to cannabis or uncertain about trying it” says Camille. “We hope that customers will learn more about the product and feel better informed when they leave.”

As a means of shedding any shady connotations, it takes a more poetic approach than most recent dispensaries, which tend to have a minimal, pharmaceutical look. As one of the state's first recreational dispensaries, MedMen styled its West Hollywood store as "the Apple Store of weed". Each location has long wooden tables and is manned by cheerful staff wearing matching red hoodies. It now has 23 locations across the country.

“The Mike Bites are really popular this month,” says a beaming MedMen budtender at its downtown LA branch, showing me a packet of ear-shaped gummies. These are the latest release from boxer Mike Tyson's weed brand, Tyson 2.0, in a ghoulish tribute to the time when he bit Evander Holyfield in 1997.

On the tables, petri dishes display a selection of red gelatine ears, flapjacks, chocolate buttons, onion rings and popcorn; each with its unique CBD/THC ratio. Touch-screen monitors provide further details. The tables also feature cannabis sugars, balms and even bath bombs. Vape pens line yet another table while dried buds are contained in little plexiglass boxes complete with magnifying glasses and ventilation holes for close inspection of the 'nug' structure.

The assistant says, “We keep it rotating like a grocery store to keep customers interested, and we have an area by the counter with things like pop rocks for grab and go.” You can schedule an appointment with a seasoned "cannasseur" to discuss your specific needs - such as what to take before a date night and the ins and outs of cannabis-infused lube - a la the Apple Store "genius bar."

In the independent and alluring West Hollywood, two venues have stepped forward into the unknown by allowing on-site cannabis consumption – something that's currently legal only in this part of Los Angeles County. Woody Harrelson, a famous actor and pro-weed advocate, has been pivotal in creating The Woods – an organic dispensary with a Ganja Giggle Garden opened last October. It's an enchanting tropical area filled with cannabis cabanas and tropical greenery, along with some vibrant blue macaws and a pond full of koi carp.

During the past 20 years, designer Thomas Schoos has been collecting cycads and sago palms, mango and papaya trees, exotic orchids, and century-old yuccas to plant the garden. The result looks like a Baliese hideaway, with the planting framed by ornamental wooden panels salvaged from Thai temples and an outdoor bar with a 250-year-old ceiling from a Burmese monastery - which has been repurposed here for a spiritual purpose.

The shelves are lined with blown glass bongs, bubblers, and their 21st-century equivalents, electric "dab rigs" and cups made by Zenco so that you can inhale vapour like a witch's potion.

With a two-storey treehouse accessible by a spiral staircase (which looks challenging after a few puffs), the cabanas are nestled in the jungle canopy, with a white steel frame cabana nestled in the jungle canopy. As a celebrity stoner town, the glass walls are rescreened with sheer curtains, providing privacy. The unit next door will soon have a bar serving alcohol, connected by what Schoos calls a “peekedy-boo window”, offering illicit glimpses between the spaces - which are legally separated.

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One may mistake The Artist Tree as a conceptual installation upon entering. Through the reception desk stands a freestanding glass box aglow with ultraviolet light and is home to cannabis plants available for purchase; surrounding it are an assortment of prints, paintings and cases filled with products. While Woods has a resort/spa feel with small statues of Buddhas scattered throughout its premises, The Artist Tree gives off art gallery vibes.

A staircase leads up to a bright and airy bookshelf-lined lounge, which spills onto an outdoor terrace. On a weekday lunchtime, two millennials sip cannabis-infused mocktails while a group of middle-aged women giggle together around a bong as they stare vacantly at their laptops. In the corner, a solo smoker smiles contentedly.

The co-founder Lauren Fontein says, "We didn't want it to feel like a dark, dingy Amsterdam coffeeshop." Open mic nights, drag brunches, and standup comedy are held in the lounge, while an events room upstairs hosts events like “puff and paint” art classes, stoned yoga, and sound baths - a popular California ritual that involves lying down listening to singing bowls and gongs.

Many of these new dispensaries, which are styled more like galleries or spas than dispensaries, have faced challenges. "Many people do not realize we are a dispensary," Fontein says. As a result, we don't get walk-in traffic. Following the low footfall for the first few months, with passersby assuming The Artist Tree was a gallery, giant neon cannabis leaves were stuck on the facade, dazzling enough to catch even the most blind eyes.

The new Urbn Leaf dispensary on Sunset Strip had similar problems. “People thought we were a boutique perfumery,” says the store manager, so we put a big “Weed Here” sign on the door.” But the customers don’t fit the typical stereotype either. In addition to tourists, he says, they get a lot of customers who want wellness products or exercise equipment.

"We get a lot of fitness people coming down from the hills who want to get stoned and go for a hike, or who use cannabis to work out." "It's not just about sitting on the couch and getting munchies anymore." Several innovative projects continue apace: Emerald Village is planning a cannabis-themed bowling alley and recording studio, as well as a THC-infused spa. A relaxed licensing policy could lead to cannabis restaurants opening soon.

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There seems to be a dispensary that caters to everyone as the cannabis market becomes ever more sophisticated. A Latino-owned store sells hash-infused chipotle peanuts adorned with lucha libre wresting masks and gummies shaped like Mayan pyramids in East LA. A taste of their Indica strain that evening sinks me deeper into the sofa than ever before. It is called “in-da-couch” for a reason.

Downtown LA’s Green Qween used to be an art deco bank, but it has since been painted in the colours of the trans flag and turned into a queer-owned dispensary. Once inside, visitors are met with a sparkly scene; there is a disco ball spinning in the corner and dicroic mirrors reflecting rainbows across the floor. Founder Andrés Rigal explains, “We wanted to honour the brave people who helped legalise cannabis – specifically, Dennis Peron who founded San Francisco’s first dispensary during the Aids crisis.” Adorning one wall outside is a mural with selfie spots featuring empowering phrases.

However, for purists, it's all about the bud – and getting it straight from the source. I arrive at Traditional, a warehouse in an industrial area south of downtown that is distinguished only by its security guard. An LA Lakers jersey and shelves of figurines by the artist Kaws adorn the lobby, which is decorated with a sparkling purple terrazzo floor and framed LA Lakers jersey.

It looks like a high-end streetwear outlet, with rails of branded T-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants, alongside supersized cannabis jar-shaped plinths displaying not only the latest sneaker drops, but also this month's flowers. Moreover, a growing facility of 70,000 square feet that produces 360 kg of cannabis a month is at the back of the building.

Traditional’s president, Alex Freedman, previously worked as an attorney for the City of Los Angeles, drafting cannabis licensing regulations, says, “We grow premium flower, all of our own genetics.” Because our product is grown, dried and packaged right here, we can offer it for 50% less.

My first stop is the “mom room”, where cuttings are taken from mother plants, propagated in a humid “clone room,” followed by the “veg room,” and finally one of the vast “flower rooms” where hundreds of plants are grown under artificial light for another 12 weeks to produce plump, sticky buds that are covered with hairy pistils and crystal-like trichomes.

Freedman informed me that Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, recently paid a visit to LA in order to gain an understanding of how legalising cannabis has had a positive effect on safety, quality and not least, tax income. The City of Angels is renowned for its stylish boutiques and upmarket smoking parlours. In contrast, maybe one day we will get to see British-style cannabis caffs and marijuana pubs popping up on London streets and further afield. Who would like some ganja-flavoured pork scratchings?