Child star turned marijuana legalization advocate? Miley Cyrus may have been out to keep up with her already bourgeoning naughty girl image when she told Rolling Stone magazine that she thinks alcohol is "way more dangerous than marijuana" — and it worked.

"People can be mad at me for saying that, but I don't care," Cyrus said. "I've seen a lot of people spiral down with alcohol, but I've never seen that happen with weed."

Twenty-year-old Cyrus' comments mirror a viewpoint that is common among marijuana advocates: while thousands of people die each year from alcohol-related diseases, it's hard to find even one person who died from using too much marijuana.

Here's what we know. Heavy alcohol drinking increases a person's risk of depression, heart disease, and liver failure. Drinking has even been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Long-term health effects aside, Claremont Graduate University professor Robert Gable researched the relative risk of 20 different recreational substances. In comparing effective and lethal dosages, he concluded that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

"No drug is good for teenagers," wrote Gable. "But when it comes to the chances of immediate death by chemical toxicity, marijuana is about a hundred times safer than alcohol or cocaine."

But does a lesser chance of immediate death really make one drug more safe than another? Those who oppose marijuana's legalization say "no."

Anti-marijuana advocates say it's harder to research the effects of a drug that's illegal. People don't want to go on the record discussing a drug that they're not supposed to be using in the first place. But the research that has been done does not bode well for Cyrus' viewpoint.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says chronic marijuana use can have a lasting negative impact on users' lives. Heavy marijuana users tend to have decreased brain functions, poor mental and physical health, and less academic success. Research shows that increased marijuana use does adversely affect learning and memory processes, especially for those who begin using the drug in adolescence.

Marijuana can also have short- and long-term effects on users' cardiopulmonary health. Marijuana raises a person's heart rate by 20 to 100 percent, an effect that can last for up to three hours. Users' risk of heart attack is 4.8 times higher than normal within one hour of smoking the drug. Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs in the same way that tobacco smoke does.

Andrea Barthwell of the American Society of Addiction Medicine told NPR that marijuana can be just as debilitating as alcohol. "It certainly depends upon how an individual is using it," she said. "So if you're going to compare someone who has alcoholism to someone who is chronically and severely dependant on marijuana, they'd probably stack up in about the same way."

Cyrus, who was spotted smoking a "suspicious looking cigarette" in April, says that she doesn't want to be labeled as a stoner. She does, however, leave room for fans to draw their own conclusions. "I did a song with Snoop Dogg called 'Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,' so people can put it together for themselves," Cyrus told the magazine.

On marijuana's legalization, the young pop star made her views clear. "As long as it isn't illegal, there are far more dangerous things. And it's legal in the state of California. So I'm happy to live in California, a place where you can be whoever you want to be."