Acapulco Gold is the traditional name of a legendary, potent strain of cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) originating in Acapulco, Mexico. Like Panama Red, Acapulco Gold became popular in the cannabis-smoking underground during the 1960s and 1970s. Although it is increasingly rare, Acapulco Gold is still grown in more remote areas of its native range. The rise of cocaine trafficking has brought the general decline of Cannabis culture in Mexico. Due to inbreeding much of the Acapulco Gold that is still grown has lost its potency. Some longtime U.S. growers maintain clones of heirloom plants purported to be Acapulco Gold. Many people saved seeds during the heyday and still today there are old Acapulco Gold seeds sitting in coffee cans in attics.
The Oxford English Dictionary quotes an early usage of the term from a 1965 newsletter, in which it was described it as "a special grade of pot growing only in the vicinity of Acapulco. The color is either brownish gold or a mixture of gold and green. This grade has a potency surpassed by few of the green varieties and usually comes at slightly higher prices or in short weights." According to one linguistics book, "The gold in this phrase originally described the golden hue of the leaves on the marijuana plant, but later came to refer both to the high quality of the marijuana and to the especially high price it commanded." Acapulco by itself can be used as a synonym for marijuana, generally referring to a high-grade type like Acapulco gold. The similarly-named Acapulco red, refers to a reddish-brown marijuana grown near Acapulco, Mexico with reddish tops on the plants.
Some claim that the famous gold color of Acapulco Gold came from a technique of "girdling" the plants, or cutting through the xylem and phloem layers of the stalk, before harvest. This supposedly would cut off the flow of nutrients to the plant, leaving the stalks and buds a blanched golden color at harvest time. Many techniques such as this are used by traditional growers to shock or stress the plant during flowering, in the belief that the plants will respond to stress by producing more of the active (THC-containing) resins responsible for the plants' medicinal potency. This theory has been refuted by people who have grown Acapulco Gold outside of Mexico. The gold coloring is the natural coloring of this plant. More specifically, when grown under normal conditions, Acapulco Gold will cure with golden pistils and yellow to pale green leaves which makes for an overall golden appearance. This is the same with Santa Marta Colombian Gold. Another theory suggests that Acapulco Gold's potency and hue was a result of short-day parthenocarpy which can occur naturally in Mexico due to 11 hour photoperiods and high levels of UVB radiation and the plant's heterozygous genome. However, this theory would imply that only Acapulco Gold grown and harvested in its native regions in Mexico would live up to the strain's legendary potency.
In the live version of Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away" from the album "How the West Was Won", singer Robert Plant sings the phrase "Acapulco Gold" directly after the line "I live for my dreams and a pocket full of gold". Acapulco Gold was not mentioned in the original recording of the song.
The popular culture interest in this strain was reinforced by the frequently played and quoted advertising parody performed by comedians Cheech and Chong with the refrain "No stems no seeds that you don't need, Acapulco Gold is (inhale) badass weed." Rumors abounded in the 1970s, perhaps predating this skit, that a major tobacco maker had trademarked the term "Acapulco Gold" and was prepared to sell cannabis under that brand name after the coming legalization.
In reggae culture, a number of songs have been written about the golden plant . One famous example is the song with the simple title "Acapulco gold" by the legendary duo Sly and Robbie and the revolutionaries. Many of the songs express a certain nostalgia and have actively contributed to the strains increasingly mythical and legendary status.
Acapulco Gold is also mentioned in the song "Something About Mary" by South Park Mexican, the song "Pass the bone" from the album Words from the Genius by GZA, and the song "My Favorite Ladies" by MF Doom. Additionally, the song "Henry" by New Riders of the Purple Sage is about an American man driving to Mexico to smuggle a shipment of Acapulco Gold back to the US.