Breeding the Culture: The Northern Lights Crew

Beard Bros Pharms Emerald Cup Classification SystemThe Pacific Northwest in the 1970s-1980s emerged as the epicenter for indoor cultivation and the development of cannabis varieties specifically bred and acclimatized to indoor environments. Perhaps more than any other variety, Northern Lights came to represent the accomplishments of Pacific Northwest breeders. The Northern Lights Crew played an instrumental role in developing the genetics and techniques of indoor cultivation laying the foundation for much cannabis culture that would follow in the ensuing decades. 


The Northern Lights Crew was a group of individuals in the Seattle area (and the broader Pacific Northwest) who were connected to one another through the Indoor Sun Shoppe. Steve Murphy owned the Indoor Sun Shoppe. He also wrote the books How to Grow Marijuana Indoors Under Light (1975), Indoor Marijuana Cultivation (1977), and How to Grow the Finest Marijuana Indoors (1979), under the pseudonym ‘Murphy Stevens’.

In addition to running the Indoor Sun Shoppe and writing a book on the subject of indoor cultivation techniques, Steve Murphy also introduced, documented, and shared the Afghan genetics that he was cultivating in the late 1970s.

Steve Murphy - author- Northern Lights Crew

Steve Murphy’s Afghan is the foundation of all the Northern Lights hybrids.

Northern Lights is not a single variety, it is a set of hybrids created by the Northern Lights Crew by crossing Steve Murphy’s Afghani to a number of varieties. The numeric system used to name the Northern Lights varieties 1-11 was based on their size and trait expression with the lowest numbers representing the most pure Afghan and the highest numbers representing the most narrow-leaf equatorial drug types. 

Herbie is another important figure in the Northern Lights Crew and the history of Northern Lights. Herbie worked at Murphy’s grow shop and is credited with introducing the Hawaiian Sativa into the gene pool and creating the legendary NL #5 hybrid which was a cross between Herbie’s Hawaiian Sativa x Steve Murphy’s Afghan. 

Northern Lights Crew

Greg McAllister was a part of the Northern Lights Crew. Greg was recently featured on the Breeders Syndicate podcast where he recounts the history of the Northern Lights Crew and the creation of the Northern Lights hybrids through a collaborative effort over a number of years to develop the best varieties for medicinal properties helping with PTSD and for acclimatization to indoor cultivation. Greg has also posted on numerous forums over the years documenting this history and the role that he and others played in shaping cannabis genetics and culture over the years. Greg is responsible for introducing the Northern Lights hybrids to Amsterdam. 

Don aka “The Indian” was also part of the Northern Lights Crew. According to Greg McAllister, Don received genetics and grow equipment from the core group of friends around the shop. The NL #2 was a cross between Don’s Afghan Hybrid “The Indian” x Steve Murphy’s Afghan. 

In the mid-1980s Greg McAllister sent Northern Lights seeds to Nevil. Nevil later traveled to the United States at which point he sourced the American NL #5 cut as well as additional seed stock. Nevil made numerous crosses with the Northern Lights seeds as well as the NL #5 clone he received from the Northern Lights Crew. Perhaps the most well-known and widely grown of all of Nevil’s Northern Lights hybrids is the NL #5 x Haze.

NL #5, along with Skunk No.1 and Haze, forms the genetic backbone of the vast majority of modern drug hybrids produced by the Dutch seed industry from the mid-80s onward. The introduction of Northern Lights along with other early modern hybrids from the United States to Amsterdam and the ensuing commercial production and international distribution of Northern Lights hybrids quickly changed the shape of cannabis production globally.

Sadly in the late-1980s, the Northern Lights Crew got caught up in Operation Green Merchant.  In October 1989 Steven Murphy’s Sun Shoppe was raided as part of a massive nationwide effort by the DEA targeting grow stores and their business records in order to identify and prosecute growers across the nation. Over a two-year period, Operation Green Merchant resulted in hundreds of arrests, the confiscation and the destruction of thousands of pounds of plants and seeds, and the forfeiture of millions of dollars in assets impacting countless lives in a futile effort to stop people from growing a plant.

In recent years there has been a renewed interest and conscious effort on behalf of many in the cannabis community to source and preserve these classic heirloom varieties like the Northern Lights. Bodhi and more recently Jtoucan have worked extensively with the British Columbia Seed Company’s NL #5. Coastal Seeds and now Crickets and Cicada Seeds have been working with the NL #1. Greg McAllister has also shared NL #5 genetics with several breeders to help preserve and maintain the line.

Preserving these genetics and this history is an important task in the maintenance and preservation of cannabis culture. 

In the 1970s most of the imported equatorial drug varieties from Latin America (Mexico, Panama, Colombia, etc.) and Southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc.) were not acclimatized to northern latitudes or indoor growing conditions and simply weren’t viable for most growers. The introduction of Afghan genetics combined with a conscious and concerted group effort to breed varieties acclimatized to indoor growing conditions helped to revolutionize cannabis cultivation.

The Northern Lights Crew played an instrumental role in revolutionizing cannabis cultivation, breeding, genetics, and culture.

Source material: 

Greg McAllister / MrNice Forum 

@IntentionalMisuse (IG)

@ToddMcCormick (IG) 

Breeders Syndicate 


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